JoLT Volume 2 (2014)



JoLT Volume 2 (2014)
Trinity Journal of Literary Translation
by Alicia Mitchell
When JoLT began to take shape two years ago it was not immediately obvious that it
would have received as much support as it did, or that that support would increase day
by day. I am very grateful to the members of the Executive board who have served for
two years alongside me, and those who stepped in at various stages to help keep the
publication running. A lot of us are moving on from Trinity at the end of this year, and I
would like to wish everyone the best of luck in the future, hoping you will look back to
these days with a smile—remembering that the long editing sessions, constantly jammed
email inboxes, and impossibly long to-do lists would not have been overcome without
you, and the publication would not have survived its early days.
As well as the board members, the language editors have played their ever-important
role, often while juggling submissions of their own and academic assignments (alongside
all sorts of other responsibilities). Also, I would like to thank the sponsors of the publication
for their continued faith, and renewed pledges; without the School of English, the School
of Languages, Trinity Publications and the Alumni Association you would not be reading
the second volume of JoLT.
This year, the committee approached the selection of a theme very carefully—hoping
to identify a one-word aesthetic statement that would communicate a number of important
concepts in translation, while also allowing for free interpretation. ‘Outlandish’ was chosen
from a number of other potential candidates, and we believe it best expresses a number
of key concerns for translators: the otherness of the translator who straddles two (or
sometimes more) semantic spaces, the topographical linguistic difficulties represented
by dialect translation (something we have given special emphasis to this year), and the
otherness of. This year marks a number of firsts for the publication, chief of which is
the presentation of a variety of feature contributors—whom we thank for their generous
contribution—Ciaran Carson, James Reidel, Finn O’Connor and Nicholas Johnson. This
volume also marks the first inclusion of a translation from English into Irish. While the latter
may seem contradict one of the basic principles of the publication, the board wishes to
recognize that Irish is more than nominally an official language of the college. The board
agreed to engage in this niche earlier this year, and we are now happy to announce that
the presence of translations into Irish should constitutionally feature in all future JoLTs.
The constitution which has been drawn up will soon be available online, and it is
officially presented—concomitant with the launch of this volume—in order for the board to
receive comments before ratifying it in the coming months. We hope our readers will take
the time to read it and let us know their thoughts.
Trinity Journal of Literary Translation
I must add a crucial thank you for all the translators that have submitted work to this
year’s edition. We received work from across the English-speaking world; students from
as far apart as Los Angeles and London have contributed towards the 18 languages in
this volume (we have succeeded in beating last year’s 16!).
The inclusion of JoLT’s first translations from Hittite, Afrikaans and Bulgarian (as well
as many more languages) represents only one of the milestones reached this year. The
EBSCOHost indexing, alongside cataloguing requests from a number of libraries across
Ireland, mark important steps in the growth of the journal, and which we are very proud
and happy to announce.
As with last year, a lot of good work had to be turned down for reasons of space, but
we hope everyone will maintain their relationship with JoLT and submit next year, as well
as in the future.
Finally, I’d like to announce that, after a long selection process, the Chief Editor of
JoLT Volume III (2014-15) will be Áine Josephine Tyrrell, who is currently completing her
third year of studies in TSM English & Drama.
Claudio Sansone
Chief Editor
The JoLT Staff
Executive Board
Language Editors
Claudio Sansone
Chief Editor
Thady Senior
Webmaster, Design & Layout Editor
Kerstina Mortensen
Lola Boorman
Caroline Boreham
Jessica Bernard
Dr. Peter Arnds
Hadewych van Heugten
Mark Kenny
Patricia Gonzalez
Aneta Woźniak
Ursula Scott
Jonathan Baum
Chief Language Editor
Public Relations Officer
Communications Officer
Faculty Advisor
Every effort was made by translators and editors to secure copyright wherever it was
necessary. If you feel your work has been published here without consent or in a form that
is inappropriate, please contact us immediately and we will ratify it and/or make amends
in the errata to our online edition as soon as possible. We regret that in certain places
translations had to be published without the original text and sources to reflect the wishes
of certain estates and the inability of reaching the appropriate bodies.
Illustration: JoLT
by Alicia Mitchell
1 A True Portrait of the Author
trans. John Kearns
2 Lemko Elegy
trans. John Kearns
7 Online: In the Lemko Graveyard
9 trans. John Kearns
Featured Translator: Ciaran Carson
The Given Name
Urban Warfare
trans. Gerard Hynes
trans. Helen Conrad-O’Briain
The Myth of Illuyanka
trans. Naomi Harris
Compert Con Culainn
trans. Julie Leblanc
From The Catalogue of Women
trans. Claudio Sansone
Prayer for Charasos
trans. Claudio Sansone
Featured Translator: James Reidel
Online: The Saint
Winter Path in A Minor
Online: De profundis
Online: Psalm
Online: Elis
Sebastian Dreaming
11 Online: Jack Kerouac
trans. Maarten Walraven &
François-Carl Svenbro
Online: To Rika
trans. Sherence De Jongh
The Poetess
trans. Sherence De Jongh
Online: Wouldn’t You Believe It?
trans. Andrés Alfaro
Psalm 136. Super flumina Babylonis
trans. Bernard Mackey
Online: The Concoction of Friends
trans. Keith Payne
Pagan Rome or the Poster at the
Entrance to the Cinema II
trans. Keith Payne
Online: The Woman Who Weaves II
trans. Keith Payne
Online: Time Added
trans. Keith Payne
Trinity Journal of Literary Translation
Gaetano Cellini, “L’umanità contro il male” (1908)
Online: The Widows
trans. Keith Payne
85 Online: An Old Man
trans. Caroline Boreham
Online: The Silkworms
trans. Ursula Meany Scott
87 At the Grand Theatre in Paris
trans. Aaron Carr
Time of Sucession
trans. Venina Kalistratova
Online: Aviva-No
trans. Yael Segalovitz
trans. Colm Mac Gearailt
Featured Translator: Finn O’Connor
Michelangelo 21
Michelangelo 94
Michelangelo 95
Online: Michelangelo 101
Online: Michelangelo 103
Online: Michelangelo 151
Online: Michelangelo 161
Online: Michelangelo 247
Online: A House Made of Stone
trans. Emily Drumsta
Featured Translator: Nicholas Johnson
On Translating Ernst Toller’s Die
A Yiddish / Hiberno-English Dictionary 178
Online: Onward, onward, noble steed 129 by Sam Slote
trans. Emily Drumsta
Online: Dialect to dialect translation:
Online: The Sea
135 Belli, Burgess, Garioch
trans. Caroline Boreham
by Jim Clarke
House with a Garden
trans. Caroline Boreham
French • Featured Translator: Carson
Featured Translator: Ciaran Carson
These poems are part of a projected book, working title From Elsewhere. Those with
French/English titles are my translations of poems by Jean Follain (1903-1971); those
with English titles are my response to the translations, whether spins on them, or takes
on them. In other words, they form a dialogue of sorts.
Paroles: The Given Words
There was talk of alleged love affairs
around the antique table
well versed with worm
the iron warming on the stove
a pot of lentils stewing darkly
through the open doorway
the beauty of the tart foliage
and some birds with red throats
in the face of human words
ruled by a time-tested syntax
took one’s breath away.
Trinity Journal of Literary Translation
The Given Name
In a junk shop
from a bookcase
riddled with woodworm
he takes a book
blows the dust from it
opens it
at a coloured plate
to behold
the emerald bird
that dazzled for a moment
on the threshold of the world
outside his door
threescore years ago
whose name he did not know
until now.
French • Featured Translator: Carson
L’affiche: The Poster
The boy bouncing a barrel hoop along
for want of a toy one
runs whooping to himself
but to him who comes to spell out
under the N and the imperial eagle
the words of the conscription poster
the old man in the uneasy sunshine
drinking a glass of rough cider
has just this to say:
“the next century will be worse”
in spite of which
the lovers passing him by
go on singing.
Trinity Journal of Literary Translation
Urban Warfare
A soldier from
a foot patrol
hunkers in a doorway gun scanning
the length of the street whatever might happen next
a woman passes
wheeling a pram,
the soldier remembers
a child opening his eyes
to a blue sky a white cloud
the sound of a bird
singing from a rooftop.
Old English
Welund him be wurman
hæfde him to gesiþþe
anhydig eorl
wean oft onfond,
swoncre seonobende
on syllan monn.
siþþan hine Niðhad on
Þæs ofereode,
þæt heo gearolice
on sefan swa sar
þriste geþencan,
Þæs ofereode,
þæt hi seo sorglufu
wurdon grundlease
Þæs ofereode,
Đeodric ahte
Þæs ofereode,
Mæringa burg;
æfre ne meahte
hu ymb þæt sceolde.
ongieten hæfde
þisses swa mæg!
We þæt Mæðhilde
hyre broþra deaþ
swa hyre sylfre þing,
þæt heo eacen wæs;
nede legde,
þisses swa mæg!
Beadohilde ne wæs
sorge ond longaþ,
wintercealde wræce;
wræces cunnade,
earfoþa dreag,
monge gefrugnon
Geates frige,
slæp ealle binom.
þisses swa mæg!
þritig wintra
þæt wæs monegum cuþ.
þisses swa mæg!
George Philip Krapp and Eliot Van Kirk Dobbie (eds). The Exeter Book, The Anglo-Saxon
Poetic Records Vol. 3 (New York: Columbia University Press, 1936), pp 178–79.
Deor is both allusive and elusive. Its subject matter presupposes knowledge of Germanic
legend and its grammar is in places decidedly ambiguous. Elements of it, from the first
line to the final ‘refrain’ have been argued over at length. See Anne L. Kinck, The Old English Elegies: A Critical Edition and Genre Study (Montreal and Quebec: McGill-Queen’s
University Press, pp 158–68.
Trinity Journal of Literary Translation
trans. Gerard Hynes
Weland knew torment by the serpent,
he had sorrow and longing for his company,
the steadfast man suffered hardship;
winter-cold misery, often found woe
since Niðhad had laid fetters on him
supple sinew-bonds on the better man.
That passed away, so may this.
For Beadohild her brothers’ deaths
she understood all too well
hurt her less than her own heartbreak;
that she grew great with child. She could not think
with boldness what must be done with that.
That passed away, so may this.
Many of us have heard of Mæðhild,
the sorrowful love that reft her of sleep.
how Geat’s love became bottomless,
That passed away, so may this.
Þeodric held for thirty winters
That passed away, so may this.
the Mærings’ fort known to many.
Old English
We geascodan
Gotena rices.
wylfenne geþoht;
Sæt secg monig
ahte wide folc
Þæt wæs grim cyning.
sorgum gebunden,
wean on wenan,
wyscte geneahhe
þæt þæs cynerices
Þæs ofereode,
ofercumen wære.
þisses swa mæg!
Siteð sorgcearig,
sælum bidæled,
þæt sy endeleas
earfoða dæl.
on sefan sweorceð,
Mæg þonne geþencan,
witig dryhten
eorle monegum
are gesceawað,
wislicne blæd,
sumum weana dæl.
Þæt ic bi me sylfum
dryhtne dyre.
þæt geond þas woruld
wendeþ geneahhe,
sylfum þinceð
secgan wille,
þæt ic hwile wæs
Heodeninga scop,
Ahte ic fela wintra
folgað tilne,
Me wæs Deor noma.
holdne hlaford,
leoðcræftig monn
þæt me eorla hleo
Þæs ofereode,
oþþæt Heorrenda nu,
londryht geþah,
ær gesealde.
þisses swa mæg!
Trinity Journal of Literary Translation
We have learned of the wolfish thoughts
the Gothic kingdom. That was a grim king.
of Eormanric who widely ruled the peoples of
Many a man sat bound by sorrows
in expectation of misfortune, wished without end
that this kingdom’s rule would be overcome.
That passed away, so may this.
A man sits mournful, robbed of pleasures,
that his share of troubles is without end.
grows dark in spirit; it seems to him
Then he can consider that throughout the world
the wise Lord brings many changes,
shows favour to many a man,
certain glory, to some others a share of woe.
I want to say this about myself
dear to their lord, Deor was my name.
that for a time I was the Heodenings’ scop,
I had good standing for many winters,
a loyal lord, but Heorrenda now,
a man skilled in song, received the estates
that men’s guardian once gave to me.
That passed away, so may this.
Old English
F. Klaeber (ed.) Beowulf (Toronto: Toronto UP, 2008): ll. 2444-2462a.
Trinity Journal of Literary Translation
trans. Helen Conrad-O’Briain
So it is a grief for an old man
To live to see his boy
Ride on the gallows.
Then he laments, singing his grief
When his son hangs for the ravens’ satisfaction
–And he cannot give him any help, so old and useless wise.
Always he remembers
Each morning as it comes
His boy’s way out of the world.
He does not care to see some other heir to keep the name and lands
When that one through death’s necessity left behind all that could have been.
Broken with sorrow he looks at his son’s home, the desolate hall,
the wind-swept bed, long beyond tears,
The rider sleeps, the warrior in the grave; there is no harping
No joy about the place as there once was.
He goes to his bed and sings his loss of son
One after another, fields and home-place all seem too large.
The Myth of Illuyanka
CTH 321; KBo III 7 and KBo XVII 5, Illuyanka Part 1: (paragraphs 1-12)
Beckman, Gary “The Anatolian Myth of Illuyanka.” Journal of the Ancient Near Eastern
Society 14 (1982): 11-25
Trinity Journal of Literary Translation
The Myth of Illuyanka
trans. Naomi Harris
Thus speaks Killa, priest of the Storm-God of Nerik, the words of the purulliyaš festival
[…] of the Storm-God of Heaven; when they speak thus:
“Let the land grow and thrive, and let it be protected. And when it grows and thrives,
they will celebrate the purulliyaš festival.”
When the Storm-God and the serpent Illuyanka scuffled in the city of Kiškilušša,
Illuyanka defeated the Storm-God.
Then, the Storm-God beckoned to all of the gods: “Support me. Inara has made a
She arranged much of everything: vessels of wine, vessels of beer, vessels of walḫi.
She made abundance inside the vessels.
Inara went to the city of Ziggaratta and found Ḫupašiya, a mortal.
Thus Inara said to Ḫupašiya: “I will do this and that, and you must help me.”
Ḫupašiya responded to Inara, saying: “If you will let me sleep with you, I will come with
you and do the desires of your heart.” And he slept with her.
Inara led Hupasiya away and she hid him. She dressed herself and ornamented herself,
and she called the serpent Illuyanka up from his lair: “Behold! I am making a feast.
Come to eat and drink!”
Illuyanka, together with his sons, came up, and they ate and drank. They drank up all of
the vessels and they became drunk.
Then, theyy were so drunk that they were unable to go back down into their hole.
Ḫupašiya came and constrained Illuyanka with rope.
Then, the Storm-God came, and he killed Illuyanka. Whereupon, the gods sided with
Old Irish
Compert Con Culainn
Boi Conchubur et maithi Uloth i n-Emuin. No:tathigtis énlaith mag ar Emuin. Na:geilltis
conna:fácbatis cid mecnu na fér ná lossa hi talam. Ba tochomracht la Ultu a n-aicsiu oc
colluth a n-írenn. In:laat .ix. cairptiu dia tophfunn laa n-and; ar bá bés léu sum forim én.
Conchobur dano hi-ssuidiu inna charput 7 a ingen Deichtine ossí macdacht, is si ba harae
dia hathair. Eirrid Uloth olchenae inna carptib .i. Conall et Loeguire 7 rl. Bricriu dano leu.
Fos:rumat ind éuin remib dia ndaim tar Slíab Fuait, dar Edmuind, dar Brega. Ní:bíth clad
na airbe na caisel im thír i n-Ére ind aimsir sin acht magi rédi. Ba hálaind et ba cáin int
énlorcc 7 int énamar boí leu.
Noí fichit én, rond argit eter cach da én.
Cach fiche inna lurcc fo leith, noí luircc dóib.
Samlaith da én bátar remib cuing arcit etarru.
To:scartha tri éuin dib co haidchi.
Lotar remib hi cenn in brogo. Is and ba hadaig for feraib Uloth. Feraid snechtae mar
foroib dano. As:bert Concubur fria muintir, ara:scortis a cairptiu 7 ara:cortiss cor do
chuindchid tige dóib. Luid Conall 7 Bricriu do chur cuárta, fo:fúaratar óentech núe. Lotar
ind. Fo:rráncatar lánamain and. Boithus failte.
Lotar ass co a muintir. As:bert Bricriu níbu fíu techt don taig cen bratt cen biad. Ba cumung
dano cid ar indas. Lotar dó quammaib. Tu:bertatar a cairptiu leu. Ní:gabsat na-mmár isin
tig. Con:accatar talmidu dorus cuile friu, in tan ba mithig tabert biid doib. Batar failti meiscc
iarom fir Uloth 7 ba maith a tunithe.
As:bert in fer fri Ultu iarom, boí a ben fri idna inna cuili. Luid Deichtine a dochum, atdises,
birt macc. Laír dano bói i ndorus in tige, trogais da lurchuire. Gabsit Ulaith iarom in mac,
7 do:bert som na lurchiriu do macslabrai don macc. Alt Deichtine in mac.
Contractions have been expanded where possible.
Thurneysen, Rudolf. Zu irischen Handschriften und Litteraturdenkmälern. Weidmannsche buchhandlung. Berlin, 1912-13. pp 34-36
Trinity Journal of Literary Translation
Compert Con Culainn
trans. Julie Leblanc
Conchobor and the great men of Ulster were at Emain Macha. A flock of birds used to
visit the plain before Emain: they would graze upon it, and would leave neither roots nor
grasses nor plants left in the earth. It was a vexation to the Ulstermen, to see the birds
destroying their land. Thus they prepared nine chariots for hunting that day, as the hunting
of birds was custom with them.
Conchobor sat in his chariot with his daughter Deichtine who, of marriageable age, was
her father’s charioteer. The remaining warriors of Ulster, too, took to their chariots: Conall
and Lóegaire and everyone else. Bricriu, too, was with them.
Of their own will, the birds moved ahead of the party, beyond Slíab Fúait, across Edmann,
across Brega. There usen’t to be ditches, nor fences, nor stone walls about the land of
Ireland in that time, but only level plains. Beautiful and fair the birdflight and the birdsong
were to the men of Ulster.
Nine times twenty birds there were, a silver chain between each pair.
Each twenty flew in their own flight, nine flights to them.
In that way, two birds flew ahead, a silver yoke between them.
Toward night, three birds separated from the flock.
They went ahead to the highpoint of the land. Night fell on the men of Ulster, and a heavy
snow, besides. Conchobor told his people to unyoke their chariots and make an effort to
find shelter. Conall and Bricriu went round and found a single new house. They entered,
came upon a married couple within and were made welcome.
They went out again to their people. Bricriu said it was not worth going to such a house
without clothing and food, and their own would not go far, at any rate. The men went
anyway and brought their chariots with them, but did not take up much room inside. When
it was time to give them food, they suddenly noticed the storeroom door before them. The
men of Ulster were joyous and drunk, then, and good was their position.
Afterward, the man of the house told the Ulstermen that his wife was in her birthpangs
in the storeroom. Deichtine went to her and and she bore a son. Furthermore, a mare in
front of the house gave birth to 2 foals. The Ulstermen took the boy, and the man of the
house gave the foals as a fosterage gift to him, and Deichtine nursed him.
Ancient Greek
Ehoeae: Iphimede
Solmsen, Friedrich. “The Sacrifice of Agamemnon’s Daughter in Hesiods Ehoeae” in The
American Journal of Philology 102.4 (1981): 353-358
Trinity Journal of Literary Translation
From The Catalogue of Women
trans. Claudio Sansone
...handsome Agamemnon, lord of men, married
the dark-skinned Clytamnestra, daughter of Tyndareus.
She engendered, in that Great Hall1, the beautiful-ankled Iphimede
and Electra both, whose formed2 beauty competed with that of the immortals.
The well-greaved Achaeans slaughtered Iphimede
at the altar of swift Artemis of the golden arrows,
so that on that day, paying the beautiful-ankled Argive
—illusory phantom—3
as blood-money, the ships might might sail down to Ilium;
but the deer-hunting archer4 easily kept her5 safe,
and let fall lovely ambrosia taken from deep in the earth,
and placed her where her skin may set firmly,
immortal and incorruptible forever.6
And now the the tribe of men in that land
call her the priestess of Artemis, renowned servant of the shooter of arrows.
The House of Atreus.
I have added ‘formed’ because I felt ‘beauty’ was reductive of eidos, which in its most
literal sense means ‘form, shape’. It has been translated (in this same semantic setting)
as ‘countenance’ and ‘appearance’, seemingly with a similar intent to underscore the
particularly human component of beauty. I have also wanted to emphasise it in order
to juxtapose Electra’s eidos with Iphimede’s eidōlon.
3 As Solmsen notes, the term eidōlon (which belongs at the head of the next line, fits
very clunkily into the text, gramatically speaking. This likely to be both for emphasis,
and to connect the sentences through the word in a rhetorical turn that will not translate
nicely, so instead I have emphasised it in a different way, much to the same effect, as
an injunction.
5 The ‘real’ Iphimede, rather than her phantom left to be sacrificed.
6 Solmsen suggests that this passage promotes an “illustrious destiny which is not the
same as in the Cypria” (353). However, having reviewed Proclus’ summary of the
lost epic, I find the destiny is exactly the same, and have no reason not to suggest
the location she is transported to is indeed Tauris. As Solmsen later notes, however,
Pausanias attests that in the Ehoeae Iphemede is said to have been transformed
into Hecate by Artemis—this evidence could change the way we read the passage,
as the implications would then abound—I would venture to suggest the entrance to
the underworld, given Hecate’s Cthonic affiliation, and the view of her presiding over
liminal spaces.
Ancient Greek
“Prayer for Charasos”
αλλ’ ἄϊ θρύληϲθα Χάραξον ἔλθην
νᾶϊ ϲὺμ πλέαι· τὰ μέν̣ , οἴο̣ μα̣ ι, Ζεῦϲ
οἶδε ϲύμπαντέϲ τε θέοι· ϲὲ δ’̣ οὐ χρῆ
ταῦτα νόειϲθαι,
λλὰ καὶ πέμπην ἔμε καὶ κέλ⟦η⟧`ε΄ϲθαι
πόλλα λί̣ϲϲεϲθαι̣ βαϲί̣λ̣η̣αν Ἤ̣ραν
ἐξίκεϲθαι τυίδε ϲάαν ἄγοντα
νᾶα Χάραξον,
κἄμμ’ ἐπεύρην ρτ̣ έ̣μεαϲ· τὰ δ’ ἄλλα
πάντα δαιμόνεϲϲ̣ ιν ἐπι̣τ̣ρόπωμεν·
εὐδίαι̣ γ̣ὰρ̣ ἐκ μεγάλαν ήτα̣ ν̣
αἶψα πέ̣λ̣ο̣νται·
τῶν κε βόλληται βαϲίλευϲ Ὀλύμπω
δαίμον’ ἐκ πόνων ἐπάρ{η}`ω΄γον ἤδη
περτρόπην, κῆνοι μ̣άκαρεϲ πέλονται
καὶ πολύολβοι.
From Zeitschrift für Papyrologie und Epigraphik (ZPE) 189 (2014) Preliminary Version
Soon readers will be flooded with exacting critical analyses of this recently discovered
fragment—analyses which will be composed by expert classicists with whom I cannot
hope to compete. I present here a stylised translation of the recently discovered fragment
by Sappho, instead to render something of the emotion and power of her poetry. Sappho’s
poetry bursts off the page with energy, and I have tried to re-create that urgency, and the
subtle agonising I perceive in the original, by preparing this as if it were piece for performance. This is not an entirely original idea, also because Sappho herself often addressed
her poems in a very direct fashion to a listener/audience, but it is just one more way in
which translation may help render a true sense of the original. I have refrained from annotating it to shreds, again because many others more qualified will be doing that soon, but I
must note that I purposefully read daimon as ‘luck, fortune’, feeling it would communicate
better to a modern reader in this way.
Trinity Journal of Literary Translation
Prayer for Charasos
with a full ship’, I think that it is for Zeus
(and the other Gods) to know. Whereas you,
are not obliged to worry.
But instead, move me—compel me to prayers...
and that I should make many, too, to sovereign Hera:
that Charasos make his way here to this land,
piloting his ship.
As for our part, that he may find us safe and sound.
For clear skies from black storms
come about suddenly.
To those upon whom the King of Olympus wishes
luck, that he lifts out of misery and is quick to
protect, these become blessed
and plurally rich.
trans. Claudio Sansone
Though you keep repeating ‘Charasos has arrived
Otherwise let all rest in the hands of fortune.
Ancient Greek
κ̣ ἄμμεϲ, αἴ κε τὰν κεφάλα̣ ν έργ̣η
Λάρι̣χοϲ καὶ δήποτ’ ἄνη̣ρ γένηται,
καὶ μάλ’ ἐκ πόλλ⟦η⟧`αν΄ βαρ̣υθύ̣μιάν̣ κεν
αἶψα λύθειμεν.
πώ {ϲ̣ } κε δή τιϲ οὐ θαμέω̣ϲ̣ ἄϲαιτ̣ ο,
Κύπρι δέϲ̣ π̣ο̣ ι̣ν̣’̣, ὄτ̣ τ̣ ι̣ν̣[α δ]ὴ̣ φι̣λ̣[είη
καὶ] θέλοι μάλιϲτα π̣ ά̣λ̣ι̣ν̣ κάλ̣ [εϲϲαι;
πόθ]ον ἔχηϲθα
παρ]κ̣ άλοιϲα̣ μ’ λεμά̣τ̣ω̣ϲ̣ δ̣ αΐ̣ϲ̣δ̣[ην
ἰμέ]ρω λύ{ι̣}ϲαντι γ̣όν̣ ω̣ μ̣ ⏑̣ ε ̣‒̣ [ ×
Trinity Journal of Literary Translation
As for us, if Larichos would only hold up his head
and become a true man...
then indeed, from innumerable sadnesses,
we would suddenly be released.
How am I, then, to sleep through the night uninterruptedly,
mistress Venus, for I love him
and wish—at all costs—to call him back?
I yearn he may return...
Having laid myself down in vain some time
I long for the release of that youth...
German • Featured Translator: Reidel
Featured Translator: James Reidel
Despite his short life, addiction to drugs and incest, and enervating depressions, the Austrian Expressionist poet Georg Trakl (b. 1887) produced poems that are as important,
beautiful, and fascinating for their range of meanings as any produced by other early
moderns during the early twentieth century. The new English renderings published here
mark the hundredth anniversary of Trakl’s death in November 1914, when he died of an
overdose in a Cracow military hospital.
James Reidel recently published a new book of poems, Jim’s Book (Black Lawrence
Press, 2014). In addition to Georg Trakl, he has also translated and published works by
Robert Walser, Franz Werfel, and Thomas Bernhard.
Online: Der Heilige
Wenn in der Hölle selbstgeschaffener Leiden
Grausam-unzüchtige Bilder ihn bedrängen—
Kein Herz ward je von lasser Geilheit so
Berückt wie seins, und so von Gott gequält
Kein Herz—Hebt er die abgezehrten Hände,
Die unerlösten, betend auf zum Himmel.
Doch formt nur qualvoll-ungestillte Lust
Sein brünstig-fieberndes Gebet, des Glut
Hinströmt durch mystische Unendlichkeiten.
Und nicht so trunken tönt das Evoe
Des Dionys, als wenn in tödlicher,
Wutgeifernder Ekstase Erfüllung sich
Erzwingt sein Qualschrei: Exaudi me, o Maria!
Trinity Journal of Literary Translation
Online: The Saint
When in that hell of self-created afflictions,
Ghastly obscene images oppressed him—
No heart was ever so beguiled by the thrall
Of lasciviousness as his, and no heart so racked
By God—he lifts his withered hands,
Those undelivered, praying up to heaven.
Only a painfully unslaked lust forms
His rutting, fevered prayer, whose fire
Sweeps through mystic eternities,
And that evoë1 of Dionysus
Does not sound as drunk as when in deadly,
Rage-sputtering ecstasy his tortured cry
Wrings fulfillment: Exaudi me, o Maria!
Note: evoë, the traditional Greek–Latin exclamation
to honor the wine god Dionysus; line 13, Exaudi
me (hear me), is found in such Latin prayers to the
Virgin Mary as “Obsecro te” (I beseech thee) and
“Memorare, O piissima Virgo Maria” (Remember, O
gracious Virgin Mary).
German • Featured Translator: Reidel
Wintergang in a-Moll
Oft tauchen rote Kugeln aus Geästen,
Die langer Schneefall sanft und schwarz verschneit.
Der Priester gibt dem Toten das Geleit.
Die Nächte sind erfüllt von Maskenfesten.
Dann streichen übers Dorf zerzauste Krähen;
In Büchern stehen Märchen wunderbar.
Ans Fenster flattert eines Greisen Haar.
Dämonen durch die kranke Seele gehen.
Der Brunnen friert im Hof. Im Dunkel stürzen
Verfallne Stiegen und es weht ein Wind
Durch alte Schächte, die verschüttet sind.
Der Gaumen schmeckt des Frostes starke Würzen.
Trinity Journal of Literary Translation
Winter Path in A Minor
Oftentimes red orbs emerge from the branches,
Soft and black blanketed the long snowfall.
The priest provides the dead a funeral.
Nights are occupied with masked festivities.
Then wind-tossed crows sweep over the village;
Wonderful folktales are recorded in books.
An old man’s hair flutters in the window.
The transit of demons passes through sick souls.
The well freezes in the courtyard. In the dark
Ruined stairs collapse and there blows a wind
Through old tunnel shafts that have been sealed shut.
The palate smacks of the frost’s heavy spices.
German • Featured Translator: Reidel
Online: De profundis
Es ist ein Stoppelfeld, in das ein schwarzer Regen fällt.
Es ist ein brauner Baum, der einsam dasteht.
Es ist ein Zischelwind, der leere Hütten umkreist.
Wie traurig dieser Abend.
Am Weiler vorbei
Sammelt die sanfte Waise noch spärliche Ähren ein.
Ihre Augen weiden rund und goldig in der Dämmerung
Und ihr Schoß harrt des himmlischen Bräutigams.
Bei der Heimkehr
Fanden die Hirten den süßen Leib
Verwest im Dornenbusch.
Ein Schatten bin ich ferne finsteren Dörfern.
Gottes Schweigen
Trank ich aus dem Brunnen des Hains.
Auf meine Stirne tritt kaltes Metall
Spinnen suchen mein Herz.
Es ist ein Licht, das in meinem Mund erlöscht.
Nachts fand ich mich auf einer Heide,
Starrend von Unrat und Staub der Sterne.
Im Haselgebüsch
Klangen wieder kristallne Engel.
Trinity Journal of Literary Translation
Online: De profundis1
There is a stubble field in which a black rain falls.
There is a brown tree that stands alone.
There is a whispering wind that circles empty cottages.
How sad this evening.
Past the hamlet
The meek orphan still gleans scant spikes of grain.
Her eyes feast round and precious in the twilight
And her loins await the heavenly bridegroom.
On coming home
The herdsmen found the sweet body
Rotted in the thorn bush.
I am a shadow far from dark villages.
God’s silence
I drank from the well of the grove.
Cold metal comes to my brow
Spiders seek my heart.
There is a light that is put out in my mouth.
Nights I find myself on a heath,
Matted with filth and star dust.
In the hazel bush
Crystalline angels tingled once more.
De profundis, the penitential opening line of the Latin text
of Psalm 130 meaning “from the depths.”
German • Featured Translator: Reidel
Online: Psalm
2. Fassung
Karl Kraus zugeeignet
Es ist ein Licht, das der Wind ausgelöscht hat.
Es ist ein Heidekrug, den am Nachmittag ein Betrunkener verläßt.
Es ist ein Weinberg, verbrannt und schwarz mit Löchern voll Spinnen.
Es ist ein Raum, den sie mit Milch getüncht haben.
Der Wahnsinnige ist gestorben. Es ist eine Insel der Südsee,
Den Sonnengott zu empfangen. Man rührt die Trommeln.
Die Männer führen kriegerische Tänze auf.
Die Frauen wiegen die Hüften in Schlinggewächsen und Feuerblumen,
Wenn das Meer singt. O unser verlorenes Paradies.
Die Nymphen haben die goldenen Wälder verlassen.
Man begräbt den Fremden. Dann hebt ein Flimmerregen an.
Der Sohn des Pan erscheint in Gestalt eines Erdarbeiters,
Der den Mittag am glühenden Asphalt verschläft.
Es sind kleine Mädchen in einem Hof in Kleidchen voll herzzerreißender Armut.
Es sind Zimmer, erfüllt von Akkorden und Sonaten.
Es sind Schatten, die sich vor einem erblindeten Spiegel umarmen.
An den Fenstern des Spitals wärmen sich Genesende.
Ein weißer Dampfer am Kanal trägt blutige Seuchen herauf.
Die fremde Schwester erscheint wieder in jemands bösen Träumen.
Ruhend im Haselgebüsch spielt sie mit seinen Sternen.
Der Student, vielleicht ein Doppelgänger, schaut ihr lange vom Fenster nach.
Hinter ihm steht sein toter Bruder, oder er geht die alte Wendeltreppe herab.
Im Dunkel brauner Kastanien verblaßt die Gestalt des jungen Novizen.
Der Garten ist im Abend. Im Kreuzgang flattern die Fledermäuse umher.
Die Kinder des Hausmeisters hören zu spielen auf und suchen das Gold des Himmels.
Endakkorde eines Quartetts. Die kleine Blinde läuft zitternd durch die Allee,
Und später tastet ihr Schatten an kalten Mauern hin, umgeben vom Märchen und
heiligen Legenden.
Trinity Journal of Literary Translation
Online: Psalm
2nd version
dedicated to Karl Kraus1
There is a candle that the wind has blown out.
There is a tavern-on-the-heath that a drunk departs in the afternoon.
There is a vineyard burnt and black with holes full of spiders.
There is a room that they have whitewashed with milk.
The maniac is dead. There is an island in the South Seas
To welcome the sun god. Someone is beating drums.
The men perform war dances.
The women sway their hips in creeping vines and fire blossoms
When the sea sings. O our lost paradise.
The nymphs have forsaken the golden woods.
Someone buries the stranger. Then a glittering rain commences.
The son of Pan appears disguised as a ditch digger
Sleeping through lunch on the burning asphalt.
In the courtyard there are little girls in little dresses ripe with heart-rending poverty.
There is a room filled with chord runs and sonatas.
There are shadows that embrace themselves before a blind mirror.
The patients warm themselves in the windows of the hospital.
A white steamer brings blood plagues up the canal.
The strange sister reappears in someone’s bad dreams.
Sleeping in the hazel bush she toys with his stars.
The student, maybe a double, gazes after her for a long time from the window.
Behind him stands his dead brother, or he goes down the old spiral stairs.
In the dark of brown chestnuts the figure of the young novitiate wanes.
The garden is in dusk. Bats flutter about the cloister yard.
The caretaker’s children stop playing and search for the gold of heaven.
A quartet’s end-chords. The little blind girl runs unsteadily through the alley,
And later her shadow fingers away along cold walls, surrounded by fairy tales and
saintly legends.
Karl Kraus (1874–1936), Austrian writer and cultural journalist.
German • Featured Translator: Reidel
Es ist ein leeres Boot, das am Abend den schwarzen Kanal heruntertreibt.
In der Düsternis des alten Asyls verfallen menschliche Ruinen.
Die toten Waisen liegen an der Gartenmauer.
Aus grauen Zimmern treten Engel mit kotgefleckten Flügeln.
Würmer tropfen von ihren vergilbten Lidern.
Der Platz vor der Kirche ist finster und schweigsam, wie in den Tagen der Kindheit.
Auf silbernen Sohlen gleiten frühere Leben vorbei
Und die Schatten der Verdammten steigen zu den seufzenden Wassern nieder.
In seinem Grab spielt der weiße Magier mit seinen Schlangen.
Schweigsam über der Schädelstätte öffnen sich Gottes goldene Augen.
Trinity Journal of Literary Translation
There is an empty boat that drifts down the black canal during the evening.
In the gloom of the old asylum human wrecks fall apart.
The dead orphans lie against the garden wall.
From gray rooms angels appear with shit-spattered wings.
Worms drop from their yellowed eyelids.
The plaza outside the church is sinister and silent as in the days of childhood.
On their silver feet previous lives glide past
And the shadows of the damned climb down into the sighing waters.
In his grave the white magician dandles his snakes.
Silently over Golgotha God’s golden eyes open.
German • Featured Translator: Reidel
Online: Elis
3. Fassung
Vollkommen ist die Stille dieses goldenen Tags.
Unter alten Eichen
Erscheinst du, Elis, ein Ruhender mit runden Augen.
Ihre Bläue spiegelt den Schlummer der Liebenden.
An deinem Mund
Verstummten ihre rosigen Seufzer.
Am Abend zog der Fischer die schweren Netze ein.
Ein guter Hirt
Führt seine Herde am Waldsaum hin.
O! wie gerecht sind, Elis, alle deine Tage.
Leise sinkt
An kahlen Mauern des Ölbaums blaue Stille,
Erstirbt eines Greisen dunkler Gesang.
Ein goldener Kahn
Schaukelt, Elis, dein Herz am einsamen Himmel.
Trinity Journal of Literary Translation
Online: Elis
3rd version
Utter is the stillness of this golden day.
Amid ancient oaks
You appear, Elis, one leaning1 wide eyed.
Their blueness reflects the sleep of lovers.
On your mouth
Your rose-colored sighs grow silent.
With evening the fisherman pulled in his black nets.
A good shepherd
Drives his flock to the forest’s edge.
O! how just, Elis, are all your days.
Quietly falls
The blue stillness of the olive tree on bare walls,
An old man’s dark song dies away.
A golden boat
Heaves, Elis, your heart in a lonely sky.
one leaning, the original (ein Ruhender) evokes the
German title for a pose often found in classical art (e.g.,
Praxiteles’s “Resting Faun”); line 7, the fisherman, and
line 8, a good shepherd, appellations of Jesus Christ,
here perhaps reconciled with the heathen.
German • Featured Translator: Reidel
Ein sanftes Glockenspiel tönt in Elis’ Brust
Am Abend,
Da sein Haupt ins schwarze Kissen sinkt.
Ein blaues Wild
Blutet leise im Dornengestrüpp.
Ein brauner Baum steht abgeschieden da;
Seine blauen Früchte fielen von ihm.
Zeichen und Sterne
Versinken leise im Abendweiher.
Hinter dem Hügel ist es Winter geworden.
Blaue Tauben
Trinken nachts den eisigen Schweiß,
Der von Elis’ kristallener Stirne rinnt.
Immer tönt
An schwarzen Mauern Gottes einsamer Wind.
Trinity Journal of Literary Translation
A gentle glockenspiel hammers in Elis’s breast
With evening,
Then his head sinks into the black pillow.
A blue deer
Quietly bleeds in the thorn brake.
A brown tree stands by itself there;
Its blue fruit fell from it.
Signs and stars
Quietly sink into the pond of evening.
Over the hill it has become winter.
Blue doves
Drink the icy sweat at night
Beading down Elis’s crystal brow.
Ever hammers
God’s lonely wind on black walls.
German • Featured Translator: Reidel
Sebastian im Traum
Für Adolf Loos
Mutter trug das Kindlein im weißen Mond,
Im Schatten des Nußbaums, uralten Hollunders,
Trunken vom Safte des Mohns, der Klage der Drossel;
Und stille
Neigte in Mitleid sich über jene ein bärtiges Antlitz
Leise im Dunkel des Fensters; und altes Hausgerät
Der Väter
Lag im Verfall; Liebe und herbstliche Träumerei.
Also dunkel der Tag des Jahrs, traurige Kindheit,
Da der Knabe leise zu kühlen Wassern, silbernen Fischen hinabstieg,
Ruh und Antlitz;
Da er steinern sich vor rasende Rappen warf,
In grauer Nacht sein Stern über ihn kam;
Oder wenn er an der frierenden Hand der Mutter
Abends über Sankt Peters herbstlichen Friedhof ging,
Ein zarter Leichnam stille im Dunkel der Kammer lag
Und jener die kalten Lider über ihn aufhob.
Er aber war ein kleiner Vogel im kahlen Geäst,
Die Glocke lang im Abendnovember,
Des Vaters Stille, da er im Schlaf die dämmernde Wendeltreppe hinabstieg.
Trinity Journal of Literary Translation
Sebastian Dreaming
For Adolf Loos1
Mother bore the babe in the white moon,
In the shadow of the walnut tree, ancient elderberry,
Drunk on poppy juice, the lament of the thrush;
And silently
A bearded face bows with compassion over her
Quietly in the dark of the window; and the old chattel
Of ancestors
Lay broken up; love and autumn reverie.
So dark a day in the year, a sad childhood,
As the boy quietly descended into cool water, silver fish,
Calm and a face;
As he flung himself hard as stone in front of wild black horses,
His star came over him in a gray night;
Or when he, in mother’s freezing hand,
Walked about Saint Peter’s2 autumn cemetery at dusk,
A frail corpse lay quiet in the dark of its cell
And it lifted cold lids above him.
But he was a little bird in the bare branches,
The long bells in the November evening,
The father’s stillness, as he asleep descended winding stairs in twilight.
Adolf Loos (1870–1933), Austrian architect, whose Viennese circle included
many artists and writers, including Oskar Kokoschka and Georg Trakl
Saint Peter’s, the cemetery and catacombs at the base of the Festungsberg,
a hill overlooking the city of Salzburg.
German • Featured Translator: Reidel
Frieden der Seele. Einsamer Winterabend,
Die dunklen Gestalten der Hirten am alten Weiher;
Kindlein in der Hütte von Stroh; o wie leise
Sank in schwarzem Fieber das Antlitz hin.
Heilige Nacht.
Oder wenn er an der harten Hand des Vaters
Stille den finstern Kalvarienberg hinanstieg
Und in dämmernden Felsennischen
Die blaue Gestalt des Menschen durch seine Legende ging,
Aus der Wunde unter dem Herzen purpurn das Blut rann.
O wie leise stand in dunkler Seele das Kreuz auf.
Liebe; da in schwarzen Winkeln der Schnee schmolz,
Ein blaues Lüftchen sich heiter im alten Hollunder fing,
In dem Schattengewölbe des Nußbaums;
Und dem Knaben leise sein rosiger Engel erschien.
Freude; da in kühlen Zimmern eine Abendsonate erklang,
Im braunen Holzgebälk
Ein blauer Falter aus der silbernen Puppe kroch.
O die Nähe des Todes. In steinerner Mauer
Neigte sich ein gelbes Haupt, schweigend das Kind,
Da in jenem März der Mond verfiel.
Trinity Journal of Literary Translation
Peace for the soul. A lonely winter evening,
The dark shapes of the herdsmen at the old pond;
A baby in a cottage of straw; o how quiet
The face sank into a black fever.
Holy night.
Or when he, in his father’s calloused hand,
Silently ascended Calvary’s grim hill
And in the gloaming niches of the rocks
The blue embodiment of man underwent his legend,
From the wound beneath the heart blood ran crimson.
O how quietly the cross stands erect in a dark soul.
Love; as the snow melted in black corners,
A fair blue breeze picked itself up in the old elderberry,
In the shadowy canopy of the walnut tree;
And to the boy quietly appeared his rose-colored angel.
Joy; as an evening sonata plays in cool rooms,
In the brown wood beams
A blue moth crawled from its silver cocoon.
O the closeness of death. Inside a stone wall
A yellow head bows, silencing the child,
For in that March the moon decayed.
German • Featured Translator: Reidel
Rosige Osterglocke im Grabgewölbe der Nacht
Und die Silberstimmen der Sterne,
Daß in Schauern ein dunkler Wahnsinn von der Stirne des Schläfers sank.
O wie stille ein Gang den blauen Fluß hinab
Vergessenes sinnend, da im grünen Geäst
Die Drossel ein Fremdes in den Untergang rief.
Oder wenn er an der knöchernen Hand des Greisen
Abends vor die verfallene Mauer der Stadt ging
Und jener in schwarzem Mantel ein rosiges Kindlein trug,
Im Schatten des Nußbaums der Geist des Bösen erschien.
Tasten über die grünen Stufen des Sommers. O wie leise
Verfiel der Garten in der braunen Stille des Herbstes,
Duft und Schwermut des alten Hollunders,
Da in Sebastians Schatten die Silberstimme des Engels erstarb.
Trinity Journal of Literary Translation
Pink daffodils in the mausoleum of night
And the silver voices of stars,
So that a dark madness eased in shivers from the sleeper’s brow.
O how still a walk down to the blue river
Contemplating forgotten things, as one thrush called
In the green branches to another during the descent.
Or when he, in the old man’s bone hand,
Walked before the crumbling wall of the city at dusk
And that old man bore a pink babe in a black coat,
The spirit of evil appeared in the shadow of the walnut tree.
Groping across the green ascent of summer. O how quietly
The garden rotted in the brown stillness of the autumn,
That smell and melancholy of the old elderberry,
For the silver voice of the angel died in Sebastian’s shadow.
Prawdziwy portret autora
Jerzy Harasymowicz
Oto jestem, o włosach bez granic, o butach
uśmiechniętych od ucha do ucha, stoję na tle
świerków, w których gnieździ się moje serce
(obok chromy zajączek zaznacza takt cichutko na
A oto moje serce: naiwne kurczątko w rozpiętym
kaftaniku. Zaś moja praca to tokowiska kartek,
których żywiołowy wrzask zabija patriarchalnych
redaktorów, którzy uchodzą, zaangażowani w sprawie
niebiańskich knedli... Oto jestem, a nade mną mój
znak: potężna flaga lenistwa, zielona i niebotyczna.
Jerzy Harasymowicz (1933–1999) was a Polish poet whose work displays a great
affinity with the Lemko community from the Carpathian region of south-eastern Poland.
His first volume Wonders (Cuda) appeared in 1956, around the same time as the debut
collections of Miron Białoszewski, Stanisław Czycz, Bohdan Drozdowski and Zbigniew
Herbert. The poetry of this generation of writers represents a milestone in twentiethcentury Polish literature, signalling a clear departure from the social-realist poetry of the
day. Harasymowicz went on to publish over sixty collections of poetry and his work has
recently been the study of a major scholarly assessment by Ewa Stańczyk: Contact Zone
Identities in the Poetry of Jerzy Harasymowicz: A Postcolonial Analysis (Peter Lang, 2012).
The poems here are taken from Jerzy Harasymowicz - Wybór wierszy 1955-1973 [Jerzy
Harasymowicz: Selected Poems 1955-1973], Kraków: Wydawnictwo Literackie, 1975.
Trinity Journal of Literary Translation
A True Portrait of the Author
trans. John Kearns
Here I am, with limitless hair, with boots that smile
from ear to ear, I stand before the background of
spruce in which my heart has nested (beside a lame
leveret playing soft pipe cadences).
And here is my heart – an innocent chick in an
unbuttoned smock. While my work is a mating ground
of papers, whose exuberant screech kills patriarchal
editors making good their escape and taken up with
matters of heavenly dumplings... Here I am, and over
me my sign: the mighty flag of sloth, green and vast.
Elegia łemkowska
Jerzy Harasymowicz
Pusto w cerkwi tu tylko słońce i księżyc
Leżą na posadzce krzyżem
Drogą zamiast wiernych dziś mrówki idą do cerkwi
I rosną świętym w rękach kwiaty prawdziwe
Jesienią dach cerkwi na wielkim wietrze
Zakotłował i jak jastrząb uleciał
Dziś strugi łez płyną świętym
Gdy błyskawica przyświeca
Lub śnieg ich kryje
Białym gronostajem
Lub czeremchy kwiatem
Są przyprószeni majem
I śpi łemkowski święty jak puchacz biały
W złotej dziupli ikony
Samotny jak palec jego
Do góry podniesiony
Trinity Journal of Literary Translation
Lemko Elegy
Lying prostrate on the floor
Today not the faithful, but ants go to church
And wild flowers grow in the hands of the saints
In the strong winds of autumn the roof of the church
Today streams of tears flow holy
In the forks of lightning
Or under cover of snow
Under its white ermine
Or bird cherry flowers
Are dusted with May
And sleep holy Lemko, like a white eagle owl
In the icon’s golden hollows
Solitary, like his finger upraised.
trans. John Kearns
The church here empty, only sun and moon
Surged up and took off like a hawk
Online: Na cmentarz łemkowski
Oto cmentarz
ziełem zarosły
Oto poręba
po krzyżach zwalonych
świętego drzewa
Oto cmentarze Łemków
W Złockiem
w Szczawniku
w Leluchowie
Oto śpią na podłodze
Dawno już spróchniałej
Bez krzyża nad głową
Jesień im tylko
ostu zapala
Liści szumi
Czort niepotrzebny
chyłkiem w zarośla
Jerzy Harasymowicz
Trinity Journal of Literary Translation
Online: In the Lemko Graveyard
This graveyard
overgrown with weeds
This clearing
of stone cross ruins
The holy tree
These Lemko graveyards
In Złockie
in Szczawnik
in Leluchów
Here sleeping on the ground
Long since decayed
Without a cross at their heads
Autumn alone
lights a candle of thistle
for them
Leaves rustle
in wreaths
An unwanted bad spirit
darts stealthily off
through the brushwood
trans. John Kearns
Online: Jack Kerouac
Simon Vinkenoog
Courts métrages
Come again
One World Poetry
Started started started
Long live the eighties
life and life only-
Verder niet veel over mee te delen,
je moet het zelf maar uitvinden-
laat je door de dichten verslinden
en verorberhem, nuttig hem,
slik hem in en spuug hem uit :
waaiend met de winden
schrap in de storm
los in het toverbos
onderweg met de taal
scheurend een spleet in het geheim
winnaar en verliezer van pijn.
Laat het je eigen leven zijn
laat je niet misleiden door een ander
geef je over en geef mee :
de poëzie is een zee
die de sterre weerspiegelt
ieders mond
ieders ogen
tranen die nooit drogen
lachen dat nooit verdwijnt.
Jack Kerouac in Amsterdam: een one-world-poetry-suite voor dicters in de Melkweg
261-producties, 1980
Trinity Journal of Literary Translation
Online: Jack Kerouac
trans. Maarten Walraven & François-Carl Svenbro
Short films
Come again
One World Poetry
Started started started
Long live the Eighties
Life and life only –
Not much to say about otherwise
you have to find it out for yourself
let yourself be devoured by the poetry
and gorge on it, enjoy it
swallow it and spit it out :
waving with the winds
solid in the storm
free in the magic forest
on the road with language
tearing a crevice in the secret
winner and loser of pain
Let it be your own life
don’t get misled by another
surrender and give way:
poetry is a sea
that reflects the stars
water level
native land
everyone’s mouth
everyone’s eyes
tears that never dry
smile that never disappears
Stem zonder storing
op wereldreis
tijd en ruimtereis:
hé hier nu overal en alles,
Jack Kerouac,
Amsterdam calling :
Kerouac, Kerouac, Kerouac,
Trinity Journal of Literary Translation
Voice without interference
world tour
space and space travel
hey, here and now everywhere and everything
Jack Kerouac
Amsterdam calling :
Kerouac, Kerouac, Kerouac
Online: Aan Rika
Piet Paaltjens
Slechts éénmaal heb ik u gezien. Gij waart
Gezeten in een sneltrein, die den trein,
Waar ik mee reed, passeerde in volle vaart.11
De kennismaking kon niet korter zijn.
En toch, zij duurde lang genoeg, om mij
Het eindloos levenspad met fletsen lach
Te doen vervolgen. Ach! Geen enkel blij
Glimlachje liet ik meer, sinds ik u zag.
Waarom ook hebt gij van dat blonde haar,
Daar de englen aan te kennen zijn? En dan,11
Waarom blauwe oogen, wonderdiep en klaar?11
Gij wist toch, dat ik daar niet tegen kan!
En waarom mij dan zoo voorbijgesneld,
En niet, als ‘t weerlicht, ’t rijtuig opgerukt,12
En om mijn hals uw armen vastgekneld,
En op mijn mond uw lippen vastgedrukt?
Gij vreesdet mooglijk voor een spoorwegramp?
Maar, RIKA, wat kon zaalger voor mij zijn,
Dan, onder helsch geratel en gestamp,
Met u verplet te worden door één trein?
Piet Paaltjens (nom de plus) François Haverschmidt (Leeuwarden, February 14, 1835 –
Schiedam, January 19, 1894
Piet Paaltjens, Tijgerlelies 1851-1853
Trinity Journal of Literary Translation
Online: To Rika
Seated in an express train, which then passed,
My train, and with full speed going faster
The acquaintance could not be more curtailed
Yet still, it lasted long enough, for me
To continue on this endless life path
With a faded smile. Ah! Since I saw thee
Not one little smile was filled with such glee
Also, why do you have such fair blonde hair
Which bears the resemblance of angels? And then
Why those blue eyes, wonderfully deep and clear?
You sure knew, that I could not withstand them!
Why then did your train race past myself,
And not if a flash pushes the carriage,
And our mouths and lips are met in marriage?
Perhaps you feared a railroad tragedy?
But, RIKA, what could be more delicious,
Than, under clamour and calamity,
To be crushed with you under a carriage?
trans. Sherence De Jongh
Only one time have I seen you. You were
And around my neck your arms are held,
Die digteres
Ingrid Jonker
Ek laat die fakkellig van sterre
in my hare en in my oë brand,
en in die stadsnag met sy verre
wysheid hou ek die robots in my
Ek is die hoof en wagter van my
stad, en in die skou is ek die danseres,
In hierdie glorie het ek jou nooit
liefgehad –
is jy die bode, ek die kroonprinses.
En tog, as ek jou so sien gaan,
jy wat eenmaal my lewe was,
bly ek in eensaamheid ontnugter
bly ek tog menslik aan jou vas.
Ag, laat my dan geen digter wees,
maar net ’n soet, onskuldig kind
wat in jou arms eindelik onbevrees
beskermd lê teen hierdie bitter
Laat my ’n onbewuste meisie wees,
wat needrig om jou gunste vra,
maar wat jou liggaam en jou gees
se einddoel eendag heilig in my dra.
Ingrid Jonker. 19 September 1933 Douglas, Northern Cape. – 19 July 1965 Cape town.
Die Huisgenoot Magazine, 18 March 1955
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The Poetess
trans. Sherence De Jongh
I let the flickering of the stars
Burn into my hair and into my eyes,
and in the city night with its far
wisdom I hold, in my hand, the traffic
I am head and guardian of my
City, And in the show I am the great dancer,
I have never loved you in this
glory –
I’m the crown princess, you the messenger.
Still, when I see you go like that,
You, who after all were my life,
I remain lonely and disillusioned,
I remain humanely connected to
Ah, let me not be a poet
But just like a sweet innocent
Whom in your arms can finally
lie fearlessly protected against
this bitter wind.
Let me be an ignorant little girl,
Who humbly asks you for favours,
That the end goal of your body
and mind, will one day carry holy in
Carmen Naranjo
La Fortuna es un pueblo costarricense del norte, cerca de la frontera con Nicaragua.
Para ir allá hay que tomar curvas a la derecha y otras a la izquierda. Se trepan y bajan
montañas. Se tocan las nubes y se tiembla de frío. Algunas veces estremecen las
cataratas, otras el ancho de un río de aguas claras y sonoras, en ocasiones la profundidad
de un caudal que apenas si se divisa desde el alto, altísimo, de un puente estrecho con
una siembra de cruces en recuerdo de accidentes.
Siempre que se baja se va al encuentro de un puente y de un río, siempre que se
sube se alcanza alguna nube apegada a la montaña, que puede extenderse y tomar
formas de neblina en varios kilómetros de obligada miopía.
La Fortuna más que un pueblo es un centro urbano que sirve a muchas fincas,
algunas grandes y otras pequeñas. En ellas se trabaja desde el amanecer y preocupa el
ganado, la siembra de plátanos, la yuca, la víbora que apareció (¡ qué terrible !), el pobre
de don Albino (que se murió de lo mal que se vio) y el cuento que se cuenta al principio
de la noche.
El cuentista más famoso de La Fortuna es don Fulminante, tanto que lo apoden
Fulminante Mentira.
Vive en un rancho abierto a los vientos y a las cortinas de lluvia que no faltan en el
año, desde muy temprano, antes del almuerzo y frecuentemente durante todo el día.
Tiene dos vacas lecheras, tres perros corrientes que ha adiestrado para la cacería,
una milpa entre palmeras de cocos y ima hamaca en que duerme la siesta y entresueña
la noche. Por su rancho pasean alegres las mariposas, las lagartijas, las chicharras y
hasta algún sapo. Jamás una serpiente porque don Fulminante lleva colgado al cuello un
amuleto que lo protege de todo animal venenoso.
Es un hombre vital, cariñoso, buen vecino, capaz de hacer el bien siempre, ágil
observador y muy diestro con la palabra. Sabe contar un cuento con la agilidad de un
buen torero que busca el toro y lo esquiva como si no fuera con él. Además es bueno para
todo, para arreglar un tubo, levantar un rancho, componer una máquina, bajar la subida
de los tragos, descargar una indigestión y hasta traer hijos al mundo cuando se presenta
un caso de urgencia. No hay nada a que no le entre, pues sabe de electricidad, de
mecánica, de albañilería y hace muebles muy bonitos, cómodos y eternos porque conoce
las maderas buenas, las que son inmunes a las polillas y a otras pestes semejantes.
Se hizo famoso como milagroso cuando alguien trajo al pueblo un tractor desahuciado
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Online: Wouldn’t You Believe It?
trans. Andrés Alfaro
In the north of Costa Rica, nearing Nicaragua, there is a town called La Fortuna. To
get there you take roads wending left and right, roads trailing up and down mountains.
You graze the clouds and shiver from the cold. Sometimes the waterfalls tremble; other
times the width of a river will with its clear, bubbling waters; occasionally, the depths of
a riverbed quiver, barely visible from the tippy-top of a narrow bridge lined by rows of
crosses that memorialize traffic deaths.
Whenever you go downhill you’re bound to cross a bridge over a river. Whenever
you go up you’ll inevitably happen upon some cloud clinging to the mountain. It may even
stretch out and take the form of fog making for several kilometers of squinty vision.
More than just a town, La Fortuna is an urban center that caters to many farms both
big and small. These farms have workers who begin at the crack of dawn. They take care
of the livestock, the sowing of plantains and yucca, the viper that turned up (how awful!),
poor old don Albino (who died from how awful he looked), and the story to be told at the
start of each evening.
The most famous storyteller in La Fortuna is don Fulminante. That’s the reason for his
nickname: The Fulminant Fibber.
He lives on a ranch exposed to the winds and to the sheets of rain that fall year round.
These rains start very early, before lunch, and often last all day.
He has two milk cows, three ordinary dogs he’s trained to hunt, a small cornfield
surrounded by coconut trees and a hammock where he takes his siesta and daydreams
the night away. Many animals happily pass by his ranch including butterflies, lizards,
cicadas and, at times, even the occasional toad.
Never snakes, however, as don
Fulminante has an amulet around his neck to protect him from any poisonous creatures.
He is a lively, affectionate, neighborly man who is capable of always doing right. He
is a sharp observer and a skillful orator. He knows how to tell a story with the dexterity of
a trained bullfighter who courts the bull and skirts it as if it were never there. He’s simply
good at everything. He’s able to fix a leaky pipe, build a house, repair a machine, cure a
hangover, relieve indigestion and even deliver a baby should the emergency arise. He
can turn his hand to just about anything. He’s been an electrician, mechanic, bricklayer,
and has even crafted beautiful, comfortable, and durable furniture as he knows how to
choose quality wood resistant to moths and other such pests.
He became famous as a miracle-worker when someone brought an old, broken-down
y lo dejó botado cerca de un arroyo. Empezó a visitarlo como por casualidad y en un dos
por tres lo dejó como nuevo. Entonces lo estacionó en la Alcadía y le puso un rótulo : « lo
puede utilizar quien lo necesite ». Y se ha usado en mucha obra buena y de necesidad,
porque ése era el mandato de don Fulminante.
Cada noche, sea lunes o domingo, todos los días sin faltar uno, se acercan a su
rancho los vecinos y algunos que van de paso y que conocen su fama de buen cuentista.
Don Fulminante los saluda alegremente y les pregunta por el trabajo, por la salud, por lo
que se dice por allá y por aquí. Como buen estratega deja que se llene el público para
soltar su cuentazo y sabe que lo van a repetir en una y otra parte. Sabe desde siempre
que con cuentos se mata el silencio y se alimenta un pueblo que trabaja, siente y sueña.
¿A que no me van a creer?, empieza siempre diciendo. Pues me fui a La Fortuna
para comprarme unas alka-seltzer y yo me las voy encontrando cada vez más caras.
Entonces se me ocurrió alquilar aquel lomito que ven ahí, tan lindo, esbelto y fértil, y lo
fui sembrando con un gran amor, que para sembrar se necesita amar la tierra, cantarle
y abrazarse a ella. Cada pastilla a medio metro de distancia, en forma de círculo porque
el lomito se prestaba para ello y porque la tierra rinde mejor con la belleza. Hay que ver
como agradecen las flores y los cantos de los pájaros. Hice la siembra en abril y esperaba
la cosecha de alka-seltzercitas en julio. Pero no andaba con la mejor suerte. El tiempo
me traicionó como traiciona a todos los campesinos. En mayo empezó el cielo a nublarse
y se vino <un torrencial de lluvias, la colina se puso blanca y empezó a bajar en una nube
blanca que corrió por todos los campos y carreteras. Era realmente inpresionante, con
decirles que llegó hasta Ciudad Quesada, más de cuarenta kilómetros de aquí. Todavía
la gente se acuerda en la ciudad de ese hecho fantástico porque fue la primera y ‘única
vez que nevó por toda esta zona.
Después de una sonrisa plagada de malicia alegre, empieza de nuevo. ¿ A que no
me van a creer ? Un día se me ocurrió ir a pescar y me fui a la ribera del río La Fortuna.
Apenas me asomé a las aguas vi un montón de pececitos lindos y de colores que
jugueteaban nadando de un lado para otro, como unos niños que se despiertan a la vida.
Me enamoré de uno de ellos, el de los ojos más grandes. Con mucho cuidado y costo
lo logré meter en un tarro. Con más esfuerzo y empeño me puse a enseñarle a respirar
fuera del agua, boca a boca lo llenaba de aire, lo ponía en tierra unos minutos y luego
de nuevo al agua. Repetí la operación más de cien veces y al fin el bandido aprendió a
respirar por sí solo. Me lo traje al rancho y le enseñé a convivir con las gallinas, que al
principio lo trataron como a un extraño y después se convencieron de que era un pobre
gallo desnudo. También le enseñé a comer maiz y plátano, así como a escarbar gusanos.
Iba todo muy bien y el pececito parecía muy feliz. Ya llevaba un año conmigo cuando
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tractor to town and abandoned it next to a creek. Don Fulminante began to visit the
tractor as if by accident and, in no time at all, he had it fixed up good as new. He then
parked it in front of the town hall and placed a sign on it reading: “free to use for those in
need.” And, indeed, it has been used for many projects of vital importance because that
was how don Fulminante wanted it.
Each evening, be it Monday or Sunday – every day without fault – the neighbors,
and even some travelers who have heard of the legendary storyteller, come to don
Fulminante’s ranch. He always greets them cheerfully and inquires about their jobs, their
health, about news both near and far. As a master strategist, he waits until the audience
has filled in before launching into his story, knowing it will be passed along in one place
or another. He’s always known that stories eradicate silence and nourish a people that
work, feel and dream.
He always begins by saying, “Wouldn’t you believe it? Well, I ventured down to La
Fortuna to pick up some alka-seltzer and it seems to get pricier every time I go. So, I
had the bright idea of renting that plot of land you see over there, so beautiful, fertile, and
well-proportioned and went about seeding it with love. In order to plant one must love
the earth, sing to her and hug her while sowing your seeds. I planted each alka-seltzer
at half-meter intervals, forming a circle because the land is suited to such a task and
the earth is more bountiful with beauty. You simply have to see how grateful the flowers
are and how the birds sing their songs. I planted in April and waited until July to harvest
the little alka-seltzers. But fortune was not to be on my side. Time betrayed me as it
betrays all campesinos. In May the sky began to get cloudy and torrential rains swept in,
turning the hill completely white, sending a frothy cloud spilling down over all the fields
and roadways. It was truly remarkable and I must add that the torrent reached all the
way to Ciudad Quesada, more than forty kilometers away. The people of the town still
remember this bizarre event well as it was the first and only time it snowed in the area.”
After flashing a smile ridden with mischievous joy, he starts up again. “Wouldn’t you
believe it? One day I decided to go fishing and headed down to the banks of the La
Fortuna River. Hardly had I reached the riverbank before I noticed a large shoal of cute,
colorful little fish playing around, swimming back and forth, like kids opening their eyes
to life. I fell in love with one of these fish, the one with the biggest eyes. It was not easy
but, in time, I managed to catch it and place it in a container. After much struggle and
determination I undertook the long process of teaching it to breathe out of water. I would
pluck him from the water, give him mouth to mouth, then keep him on land a few minutes
before returning him to the water. I repeated this procedure more than 100 times and,
after all was said and done, the little rascal was able to breathe air all by himself. I brought
ocurrió lo triste bien triste. Estábamos en octubre y empezó a llover torrencialmente
desde muy temprano, no paró en todo el día, a la mañana siguiente fue peor. Tanto así
que aquella zanja seca que ven ahí se tornó en un río de aguas revueltas. El pececito
cayó en el remolino, lo vi desesperado y a pesar que me metí no pude salvarlo. Al pobre
se le había olvidado que era pez y ya tampoco se acordaba de como nadar.
En el pueblo uno a otro se dicen con frecuencia que las hoches con don Fulminante
se hacen más cortas y sonrientes.
Desde muy temprano el cuentista está ya en pie haciendo miles de oficios. ¿ De
dónde sacará tiempo para hacer sus historias ?, se pregunta la gente. A lo mejor con ese
poder de inventiva que tiene, inventa el tiempo para elaborar sus cuentos.
¿A que no me van a creer? Sucedió un día muy claro, clarísimo, el sol caía brillante
y directo para hacer todo transparente. No sé si se han fijado pero hay días en que el
sol se dedica a desnudar, entonces se ven los nervios de las hojas, la savia que baja y
sube por las ramas, las semillas de las frutas. Pues decidí que la claridad invitaba a la
cacería y convidé a mis perros a que me acompañaran. Yo hablo mucho con ellos, son
mis compañeros y amigos, la única familia que tengo. Se pusieron felices e impacientes,
ya saltaban en dos patas, ya bailaban, ya ladraban. ¡ Cómo les gusta correr tras la caza !
Entonces busqué la escopeta y la fui a cargar, ¡ qué mala suerte !, sólo tenía un cartucho
y pensé que con uno solo tal vez por milagro podría cazar un conejo de monte. Pero, qué
equivocado estaba. Me puse al camino y en el cruce de una vereda me encuentro con
una pava hermosísima. Afiné la puntería y paf le di en el mero corazón, pero la pava se
fue rodando por la ladera y yo, ni lerdo ni perezoso me eché a correr con mis perros. En
las vueltas la pava dejó estripados tres conejos que fui recogiendo y al final ya cerca del
río la pava tiró a las aguas a un venado, el que cayó desnucado. Regresé con la pava y
los tres conejos para ya con las manos libres sacar al venado. Muy contento me puse de
nuevo al camino, ahora también acompañado por aquel carretillo que ven ahí. No quería
que me saliera ima hernia al subir con el peso de aquel animal. Pues llego al río y qué
sorpresa. De verdad, les va a costar creerme.
Hizo una pausa don Fulminante para observar con su mirada maliciosa los rostros
de los oyentes. Estaban todos atentos y casi con miedo de que las aguas se hubieran
llevado al venado
Pues... saco al venado con cuidado. Bien que pesaba el animal y ya en tierra me
encuentro que en cada cuerno se habían insertado cuatro pescados. Invité por ocho días
completos a mis vecinos a almorzar y comer. Por eso ellos recuerdan muy bien aquel día
de suerte en que con un único cartucho cacé una pava, tres conejos, un venado y ocho
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him to my ranch and taught him to live side by side with the chickens. At first, they treated
him like an outsider. But, after some time, they became convinced he was one of their
own, just a poor, naked chicken. I also taught him to eat corn and plantains as well as to
peck about for worms. Everything was going well and the fish seemed quite happy. He
had been with me for a year when the saddest of sad stories took place. It was October
and it began to rain torrentially very early in the morning and didn’t let up the entire day.
The next morning was worse yet. So much so that the dry ditch you see over there turned
into a river of rushing water. The little fish fell into a whirlpool and desperately floundered
about. I rushed after him but was unable to save him despite my efforts. The poor thing
had forgotten he was a fish. He had forgotten how to swim.”
The townspeople constantly talk amongst each other of how don Fulminante makes
the nights go by more quickly and cheerfully.
By early morning the storyteller is already on his feet and performing thousands of
tasks. Everybody wonders: where does he find the time to make up his stories? Perhaps
with such prowess for invention he manages to invent time in order to work them out.
“Wouldn’t you believe it? This took place on a clear day, one of the clearest, and the
sun shone down brilliantly, turning everything translucent. I don’t know if you’ve noticed
this before but there are days the sun devotes itself to stripping everything naked. These
are the days you can see the veins in the leaves, the sap that rises and falls through the
branches, the seeds in the fruits. I decided that, given such clarity, conditions for hunting
were favorable. I called my dogs over for the hunt. I converse with them often. They are
my companions and friends, the only family I have. They became happy and impatient,
jumping about on their hind legs, dancing and barking. How they love to run and hunt!
I looked for my shotgun and went to load it but, unhappily, I had but one shell left. I
reckoned that maybe by some miracle I might be able to hit a wild rabbit. How wrong I
was. I began walking along the path and when I came to a fork in the trail I caught sight
of an extremely lovely turkey. I steadied my sight, aimed, and wham, hit her right in the
heart. But the turkey began to tumble down the mountainside. Being neither clumsy nor
lazy I ran after it with my dogs. As it rolled down, the turkey flattened three rabbits which
I went about collecting. At the bottom, next to the river, the turkey struck a deer, knocking
it into the water and breaking its neck from the fall. I decided to bring the turkey and
rabbits home so I could return for the deer unburdened. Feeling pleased, I again headed
down the path, taking with me that wheelbarrow you see over there. I didn’t want to get a
hernia trying to lift such a heavy animal. So, when I reached the river there was a surprise
waiting for me. You really might have a hard time believing me here.”
Nadie sabía la edad de don Fulminante. Aparentaba la de un hombre viejo pero
fuerte, lleno de vida. También daba la impresión de haber estado en muchas partes, algo
en su rostro y en sus manos evocaba un infinito camino que parecía andar eternamente.
En sus ojos achinados, rodeados de muchas arrugas, se asomaban a veces otras vidas,
otros tiempos. Eran la clave que une la distancia y el alejamiento.
Tampoco se le conocía a don Fulminante ni familia ni amores. Nunca mencionaba
cosas de su pasado, salvo sus asombrosas aventuras. Con todos era respetuoso y
afecto. La gente lo sentía su pariente, un ser muy cercano, una especie de amigo del
alma. No era para menos pues encabeza sin duda el patrimonio cultural de aquel pueblo
y a él lo siguen los jinetes, los arrieros, los comerciantes, los tractoristas y todos los
demás que en algún punto de la noche o de madrugada inventan su propio cuento.
¿ A que no me van a creer ? Una tarde cuando me empecé a familiarizar con la
malaria, tal vez por el peso de la calentura me recosté en la hamaca envuelto en un paño.
No sé en qué momento se subió una rana verde con ojos saltones. Se quedó mirando con
un gran temor que la hizo encogerse, lista para dar el brinco. La vi con enorme ternura y
ella se fue destensando, hasta se atrevió a pestañear. El amor, cuando se sabe expresar,
es el elemento más vinculante posible. Fui bajando mi mano lentamente y ella brincó a
su encuentro. Empecé a acariciarla con devoción y la rana respondió extendiéndose por
completo. ¡ Qué lindo gesto !, pensé, ¿ cómo corresponderle ? Por primera vez me di
cuenta, a pesar de haber visto tantas ranas en vida, de que era el animal más desnudo
del mundo. Nada tenía que la tapara, ni pelos, ni rabo, ni una piel dura. Allá estaba
ella sin algo que la vistiera de rana, absoluta y púdicamente desnuda. Se me ocurrió
entonces que yo también debía desnudarme para igualarme, no debía haber distancia
entre nosotros. Pensado y hecho, me quedé como Dios me trajo al mundo, aunque más
viejo y más crecido de todo. Se me arrimó como si comprendiera mi gesto y empezó a
« ranear » con un sonido hondo y agradable. Un coro le respondió de varias partes. La
comunicación era perfecta. En eso, ¡ qué impresión !, la hamaca se llenó de ranas y la
primera que llegó me estaba acariciando la mejilla. Ya no podía moverme pues no quería
echar a ninguna, entonces otra vez la primera me abrió, casi a la fuerza, la boca y dio un
brinco adentro. Tuve que tragármela porque me estaba ahogando y cuando pasó más
adentro sentí que la garganta se me destrozaba. Desde entonces algo de rana me habita
adentro y muchas ranas me siguen a todas partes con gran confianza y sin miedo alguno.
Miren qué cerca están, por aquí, por allá, hasta en el techo. Y también desde entonces
siempre me desnudo para dormir, me gustan los insectos y ya en el suelo brinco como
ellas, también canto como ellas. Cuando conté esto por primera vez, alguien al verme
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Don Fulminante paused to observe the faces of his audience through mischievous
eyes. Each person was enthralled, almost afraid the water might have carried the deer
“So…I carefully hauled the deer out of the water. It was no easy task. Once out,
I noticed each of its horns had impaled four fish. For eight straight days I invited my
neighbors to lunch with me. That’s why they still reminisce about that fateful day when,
with only one shot, I managed to bring home one turkey, three rabbits, a deer and eight
Nobody knew how old don Fulminante was. He had the looks of a strong, old man,
brimming with life. He also gave the impression of having traveled a great deal. There
was something in his face and hands that evoked an infinite path, one that stretched on
forever. In his slanted eyes surrounded by wrinkles you could sometimes see other lives
and ages shine through. They were the key to uniting distance and estrangement.
Nor was don Fulminante known to have any family or lovers. He never mentioned his
past aside from his amazing adventures. He was a respectful and affectionate person to
all he encountered. The townspeople thought of him like a relative, a close friend with a
kindred soul. He was nothing less than that and there was no doubt he commanded the
cultural heritage of the town. Everybody including horsemen, muleteers, merchants, and
farmers followed his lead. At some point in the night or early mornings, they would also
create their own stories.
“Wouldn’t you believe it? One afternoon I began to get acquainted with malaria.
Perhaps it was due to the oppressive heat but I decided to lie down in my hammock,
wrapped in a towel. I don’t recall exactly when but a little green frog with bulging eyes
came up to me. It stood there looking at me fearfully, cowering and ready to jump away.
I gazed at her warmly and she began to relax, eventually daring to blink. Love, when one
knows how to show it, is the most binding force in the world. I started to reach my hand
down slowly and she hopped up on it. I began to pet her tenderly and the frog responded
by stretching her whole body out. I thought: what a beautiful gesture! But, how was I to
reciprocate? For the first time, despite having seen many frogs in my life, I realized the
frog had to be the most naked animal in the world. It had nothing to cover itself with, not
even hair or a tail or tough skin. She was there with nothing on, absolutely and bashfully
exposed. It then occurred to me that I, too, should be naked if we were to be equals. I
wanted no differences between us. My thoughts soon became a reality and I was as God
brought me into the world, only older and more grown. She approached me as if she
understood and began to ribbit out a deep, pleasing sound. A chorus responded from the
con tantas ranas que me seguían, me llamó el señor de las ranas. A mí no me disgustó
el título, al fin y al cabo era el único título que me gané en eso que llaman la universidad
de la vida.
Después, cuando iban de regreso a sus casas, un vecino comentó a otro que el señor
de las ranas parecía ignorar que muchos lo apodaban con inmenso cariño y admiración
Fulminante mentira. Y es que la mentira cuando es una exageración obvia en cualquier
parte se recibe como una fruta fresca en un día caliente. Produce alegría y ese admitir
qué cuento bueno nos contó don Fulminante. Y lo repetían sin la gracia de los detalles y
de los ademanes de aquel viejo querido. Decían, por ejemplo, ese don Fulminante tiene
sus cosas. Anoche nos relató que las abejas lo quieren tanto que hicieron un panal en
su techo, en la medida justa para que la miel se caiga en la boca cuando perecea en la
¿ A que no me van a creer ? Pues resulta que me empieza a doler una muela, una
de las de aquí atrás. La jodida no me dejaba en paz. i Que si una punzada aguda, que
si otra peor ! Lo terrible es que me creció y ya no podía ni cerrar la boca. Me dolía tanto
que hasta dejé de contar cuentos. A la gente que venía les enseñaba un rótulo que decía
: no puedo hablar, estoy transitoriamente mudo. Con decirles que se me olvidó qué era
dormir porque en cuanto cerraba los ojos, la maldita muela se complacía en perforarme
la mandíbula y hasta los oídos se me tapaban con el ruido de un taladro casi de minas.
La cara se me hinchó de tal manera que la nariz se me desapareció, ya no tenía perfil,
era una bola completa y con orejas. Ante ya lo insufrible me empecé a remediar con
cuanta planta sabía que me podría aliviar. Hasta tomé tecitos de yerbabuena con hojas
de reina de la noche, que me repararon el sueño. Ya sin esperanza alguna me vine al
pueblo y busqué al dentista. Me dijo que había que sacar la tal desgraciada muela y para
eso era necesario que me deshinchara. No fue tarea fácil, pero con esperanza, rezos y
conversaciones de convencimiento con mi propia piel, se me volvió a ver la nariz, esta
misma que ven aquí. Recuperado el rostro y descrecida la muela, volví donde el dentista,
quien me aseguró que no me dolería mucho. Me puso una inyección que para qué les
cuento, fue un pinchazo tan agudo que me abrió los esfínteres y a mí me dio mucho
miedo hacer la gracia de dar del cuerpo en aquel momento. ¡ Qué vergüenza hubiera
pasado ! Por dicha me puse aquí la mano derecha y pude sostener lo que se venía. El
dentista me abrió la boca, metió las tenazas y empezó a echar fuerzas. Nada, la muela
inmóvil. ¡ Qué terca la condenada ! Entonces llamó a su ayudante y entre los dos jalaron.
Nada. Inmóvil la desgraciada. Llamaron a otra gente y se fue haciendo una cadena, que
llenó la clínica y recorrió tres cuadras hasta la iglesia. Todos muy empeñados en hacer
fuerzas. Nada. Quieta como una roca. Alguien sugirió una yunta de bueyes. Todavía no
Trinity Journal of Literary Translation
surrounding area. Our communication was perfect. And what an impression she made!
My hammock began filling with frogs and the first to arrive started rubbing my cheek. I
could no longer move as I didn’t want to scare any of them away. It was then that the
first frog pried my mouth open, practically by force, and jumped in. I had to swallow her
because she was choking me and as she passed further inside I felt like my throat might
shatter. Ever since, I’ve had something of a frog inside me and frogs everywhere follow
me around with the utmost confidence, lacking any fear. Look how close they are right
now, over here, over there. Even on the roof! And every day since, I’ve always undressed
before going to sleep. I like insects and when I’m on the floor I jump like them. I even
sing like them. When I told this story for the first time someone called me the Frogmaster
given that so many frogs were constantly following me. I did not dislike the nickname and,
at any rate, it’s been the only title conferred to me in this place people call the University
of Life.”
Later, when everyone was heading home, a neighbor commented to another that the
Frogmaster seemed to be unaware of the fact that many had affectionately nicknamed
him the Fulminant Fibber. A lie, when it is an obvious exaggeration, is welcomed
everywhere like fresh fruit on a hot day. Lies bring joy and each acknowledged how good
don Fulminante’s stories were. And they would pass the story on to others but without
the grace of detail and gesture that the beloved old man employed in his execution. They
would say, for example: that don Fulminante has his things. Last night he told us about
the bees that love him so much they built a honeycomb on his ceiling. They built it in
such a way that the honey would drip right down into his mouth while he was lounging in
his hammock.
“Wouldn’t you believe it? It so happened that one day I began to have a toothache,
it was one of these back here. The wretched thing wouldn’t leave me alone. As soon as
one sharp pain struck a sharper one followed! The pains got so bad I couldn’t even close
my mouth anymore. I stopped telling stories from the agony. When people came by I
had to show them a sign that read: “Can’t talk. Temporarily mute.” I forgot what it was
to sleep because as soon as I closed my eyes the damned molar would indulge itself in
stabbing my jaw. It got to the point I could no longer hear thanks to a noise that filled my
ears like that of a jackhammer. My face swelled up and my nose disappeared. I no longer
had a profile; my head was like a soccer ball with ears. Faced with such excruciating
conditions I began trying to cure myself with any kind of plant I knew might bring relief. I
drank spearmint teas with brugmansia leaves. This allowed me to sleep. Feeling quite
hopeless, I journeyed to town in search of a dentist. The dentist informed me he would
need to remove the nasty little molar and, in order to do this, it would be necessary for the
me explico cómo la conectaron con mi muela. Los puyaron y los dos muy juntos y parejos
arrancaron calle arriba hasta que sentí que la muela iba para afuera. Fue una sensación
falsa y absolutamente ilusoria. Ahí estaba la muela pegadita hasta que se rompió la
conexión. El dentista me dijo, mire don Fulminante esa muela es muy suya y no quiere
dejarlo, mejor quédese con ella, aunque he hecho más fuerzas que nunca y he perdido
toda la mañana, no me debe nada. Me pareció justa su decisión y me quedé con la muela
que véanla está enterita y buena, además desde aquellos esfuerzos nunca más me ha
molestado ni dolido.
Don Fulminante, buenos días, ¿cómo le va? Bien gracias a Dios. En la nochecita lo
espero pero, ¿a que no me va a creer?
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swelling in my face to go down. That was no easy task. But with hope, prayer, and a few
persuasive conversations with my own skin, my nose began to be visible again, the same
one you see in front of you. With my face back to normal and the molar down to size,
I went back to the dentist. He assured me the procedure would not hurt too much. He
gave me an injection which, let me tell you, poked me so hard that my sphincter opened
and I was quite afraid I might lose control of myself. How embarrassing that would have
been! Luckily I was able to put my right hand down and hold back what was certain to
come. The dentist opened my mouth, stuck his forceps in, and began forcefully pulling.
But, alas! The molar would not budge! How stubborn that wretched tooth was! So, the
dentist called in his assistant and between the two of them they pulled together. Zilch.
The vile thing refused to move. They called still more people in and they began forming
a chain that ran out of the clinic and stretched three blocks until it reached the church.
Each person was determined to do their best. Still nothing. Immovable as a mountain.
Someone suggested calling in a yoke of oxen. I’m still not sure how they tied them up to
my tooth. Some folks prodded the oxen and the pair practically tore the ground up until I
thought I felt the tooth come out. But it was false hope, completely fictitious. The molar
was still there, unmoving. It stayed that way until the ropes broke. The dentist then said,
“Look, don Fulminante, that molar is very much yours and has no desire to part from you.
It would be better if you kept it despite all our efforts to pull it out. Although we’ve spent
the entire morning trying, you owe me nothing.” His decision seemed fair and so I kept
the tooth which, if you’ll have a look, is still there, healthy and whole. And what’s more,
after all those struggles, it hasn’t once given me trouble or pained me in the slightest
Good morning, don Fulminante. How do you do? I’m doing well, thank you very
much. In the early evening I wait for him but: wouldn’t he believe it?
136 Psalmus David, Jeremiæ.
From Clementine Vulgate
Super flumina Babylonis illic sedimus et flevimus,
cum recordaremur Sion.
In salicibus in medio ejus
suspendimus organa nostra :
quia illic interrogaverunt nos, qui captivos duxerunt nos,
verba cantionum ;
et qui abduxerunt nos :
Hymnum cantate nobis de canticis Sion.
Quomodo cantabimus canticum Domini
in terra aliena ?
Si oblitus fuero tui, Jerusalem,
oblivioni detur dextera mea.
Adhæreat lingua mea faucibus meis,
si non meminero tui ;
si non proposuero Jerusalem
in principio lætitiæ meæ.
Memor esto, Domine, filiorum Edom,
in die Jerusalem :
qui dicunt : Exinanite, exinanite
usque ad fundamentum in ea.
Filia Babylonis misera ! beatus qui retribuet tibi
retributionem tuam quam retribuisti nobis.
Beatus qui tenebit,
et allidet parvulos tuos ad petram.
Ref: The Clementine Vulgate Project. Online. Accessed: 13 Feb. 2014.
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Psalm 136. Super flumina Babylonis
trans. Bernard Mackey
A Psalm of David, in Jeremiah’s time.
Over the flowing waters of Babylon, there we have sat down and we have wept,
when we used to call Sion to mind.
On the willows at interval there
we have suspended our musical instruments:
they have enquired of us there, who brought us into captivity,
for words of songs;
and they who have led us away:
produce for us a psalm of praise from the hymns of Sion.
In what manner can we produce monody of the Lord
within a land not our own?
If living I having forgotten you, Jerusalem,
may my right hand be delivered to oblivion.
May my speech cleave in my throat,
if I am not mindful of you;
if I do not set Jerusalem
in the origin of my delight.
Be mindful, Lord, of the sons of Edom,
in the day of Jerusalem:
they who declare: desolate, desolate
take it to its foundation.
Wretched daughter of Babylon! fortunate be the one who
shall give back recompense to you
in what manner you have given to us.
Fortunate be the one who shall hold fast
and strike your little ones against a rock.
Online: La Invención de los Amigos
Víctor Hugo Díaz
Los extraños que conocemos
son cada vez más jóvenes
Es igual para todos, una calle lateral
batiendo los brazos a distintas velocidades
pero siempre cuesta abajo
Afluentes de una misma inundación.
El mendigo se sienta al lado y hace picar el cuerpo
Interrumpe el viaje con sólo tocar sus cabellos
La ciudad se muestra teñida al forastero
pero oculta su negra vellosidad
Siempre es mejor una vida larga llena de suturas
de espacios en blanco – cuando todo lo hecho es un error
pero un error bien hecho –
Porque nunca dejas esa casa…la casa te deja.
Durante la noche ensancharon la calle
En el paradero reseco bajo el sol
la sombra del camión se detiene, se orina
y deja su huella
Víctor Hugo Díaz was born in Santiago de Chile in 1965. Publications include: “La
comarca de senos caídos” in 1987, “Doble vida” in 1989, “Lugares de uso” in 2000, “No
tocar” in 2003, “Segundas intensiones” in 2007, “falta” in 2007 Antología de baja pureza
in 2013. In 1988 he was awarded the Pablo Neruda Creative Writing Grant; in 2002 the
National Book & Reading Council’s Creative Writing Grant and in 2011, 2012 and 2013 the
South to North Writing Project’s Grant; Chilean Poetry in Mexico, supported by the Book &
Reading Fund. In 2004 he won the Pablo Neruda Prize in its centenary year. Víctor Hugo
Díaz is recognised as one of Chile’s most important living poetic voices.
First published: Lugares de Uso, Cuarto Propio, Santiago, Chile, 2000.
Trinity Journal of Literary Translation
Online: The Concoction of Friends
are getting younger
It’s the same all over, back an alley
flapping your wings good oh
but then the slippery slope
streams bursting to floods
The bum takes a seat and makes my skin crawl
it’s enough to put me off him playing with his hair.
The city dolls herself up for the visitor
but keeps the dark bits well hid.
It’s all for the best the long life; well stitched up,
nice white rooms – ‘cause it’s gone to the wall
Because you never leave this house…this house throws you out.
They widened the street during the night
on the bypass the shadow of a truck
stops under the sun, pisses
and leaves its mark.
trans. Keith Payne
The freaks you know
but well laid out all the same –
Las antenas de televisión son una especie
casi extinta sobre los techos
Escucha el esfínter dentado de su boca, escúchalo
una fiesta sin música y mucho ritmo.
Al otro lado de la puerta una procesión de evangélicos
corta la luz de la tarde; hace rato que partieron
Un fuerte viento baja seco y desconocido
resistiendo a cuantos caminan
Nadie sabe cuándo vendrá la próxima ráfaga
Igual al condenado protegido y cómodo
conectado a una maquinaria que no maneja
ignorante del momento de su ejecución .
Se sienta al lado y hace picar el cuerpo
El tañer de la botella desechable en la pisadera nos distrae
A su edad sólo pensaba en cama y sábanas limpias:
cosas que suceden en el momento justo.
Se movía en la cabeza como un balazo
siguiendo el rastro de la noche anterior
la ruta de desperdicios sobre la alfombra.
Trinity Journal of Literary Translation
TV aerials are becoming an
endangered species on the roofs.
Listen to the teething sphincter of their mouths, listen to it
It’s a party with no music but plenty a’ rhythm.
There’s Jesus freaks blocking the light
the other side of the door; they only just left there’s
a strong wind blowing out there
take the face off you.
Never know where the next blow might fall
like the condemned fella hooked up to the machine
happy out
hasn’t a clue.
He takes a seat and my skin crawls.
The clinking of the disposable bottles on the step distracts us
when I was his age I only thought about clean sheets and a bed:
one on top of the other.
It rattled about his head like a bullet
following the path of the night before
the path of rubbish across the floor.
Pagan Rome o el Afiche a la Entrada de un Cine II
Víctor Hugo Díaz
Pagan Rome poseía colinas
Desde arriba la ciudad le parecía
[un gran juego de videos
que la noche hace emerger.
Allí fuimos exhibidos ellos
como una redada ante sus ojos
Bebíamos de los pequeños pechos
manados de los muros de por estos sitios
Una breve postal
un destello
Altivas crestas de edificios
que los últimos celajes lamen.
Pagan Rome Chile Night Club
El cuadrilátero y la llanura donde descansamos
[la cabeza
El sueño de Calígula la noche anterior
[a su asesinato
Cuando creyó ser uno de nosotros
y bailó desnudo
sin decir palabra
First published: Doble Vida, Venus Negra, Santiago, Chile. 1989.
Trinity Journal of Literary Translation
Pagan Rome or the Poster at the Entrance to the Cinema II
trans. Keith Payne
Pagan Rome was built on hills
from the sky it looked like a great
video game that came out at night.
They put us on show there they
all of them prey for their display.
We drank from the small breasts
that gushed from the walls for us
a picture postcard
a glimmer.
Buildings soared were crowned
then withered by cloud wisp.
Pagan Rome Chile Night Club
The arena and the plain where we get
the head down
Caligula’s dream the night before
his assassination
when he believed he was one of us
and danced naked
without a word.
Online: La Mujer Que Teje II
Lado B, después de horas volverse a encontrar
es tejer mirando la ventana cerrada
sin cortinas.
Afuera es suave la piel del paisaje
pero hay algo raro y nuevo;
caramelo cristalizado
y el mismo libretto por años
turista que por un buen precio
vuelve de visita al asiento numerado
al paradero de micros y al diseño de carátula
que ahora están sin afeitar
cubiertos de maleza
– El tipo de la barra no entiende nada
está demasiado duro
Pero el espejo te informa, él te pone al día.
¿Sabes leer las piedras?
Yo las he pateado como envases y letras vacías
camino mirando al suelo.
De vez en cuando, una pausa
el cigarillo que espera los labios
humeante en el cenicero.
First published: Falta, Cuarto Propio, Santiago, Chile, 2007.
Víctor Hugo Díaz
Trinity Journal of Literary Translation
Online: The Woman Who Weaves II
and find her weaving at the closed window
the blinds up.
Outside the hide of the landscape is sleek
but something is off, something new;
crystallized candy
and the same old libretto for years
a tourist who for a good price
returns to the numbered seat,
the bus stop and the book cover
they’re all overgrown now
covered in weeds
– Your man at the bar hasn’t a clue
he’s too thick
but the mirror tells all, that’ll keep you up to score.
I’ve kicked them around like tin cans and empty lyrics
I walk with my eyes to the ground.
Now and then, a pause
the cigarette that awaits the lips
smoking in the ashtray.
trans. Keith Payne
B Side, hours later you come round again
Do you know how to read the stones?
Online: Tiempo Agregado
Víctor Hugo Díaz
El anciano lee el diario
De vez en cuando lleva la cuchara a su boca
La cotona azul desteñida se descosió bajo el brazo
(en la misma mesa, frente a él
sentada ante el plato humeante, la mujer que de joven
– todavía se nota – tenía el mejor cuerpo
y el apetito más tímido de la fábrica)
Ahora come de todo
se está recuperando
lo peor ya pasó.
First published: No tocar, Cuarto Propio, Santiago, Chile, 2003.
Trinity Journal of Literary Translation
Online: Time Added
The old man reads the daily
occasionally lifts the spoon to his mouth.
The washed out blue shirt frayed at the seam
(at the same table in front of him
sat to a steaming plate, the woman who
– and you can still see it – who had the best body
and the tiniest appetite in the factory.)
She eats everything now
she’s getting better
the worst is over.
trans. Keith Payne
Online: Las Viudas
Murió el primero de los hermanos
Penetró en el muro a pausas
entró negro y erecto
negra madera, vestido blanco
quejido y exhalación.
Las viudas contraen nupcias en la cama vacía
en ropa interior de luto
no lloran de felicidad
el ramillete no es obsequio y promesa
[para las solteras
Más tarde en privado las flores se marchitan
flores rojas, blancas, hojas de papel
se marchitan en círculo
coronas secas
First published: No tocar, Cuarto Propio, Santiago, Chile, 2003.
Víctor Hugo Díaz
Trinity Journal of Literary Translation
Online: The Widows
The first of the brothers died
down he went into the ground
black and stiff they lowered him down
the wood black, the suit white
murmur breath.
The widows wed their empty beds
in mourning drawers
there’s no tears of joy or bouquet gift
no spinster’s promise.
Later alone the flowers fade
red flowers, white, paper leaves
that fade endlessly
to wreathes
trans. Keith Payne
Online: Los gusanos de seda
Paula Cifuentes
A pesar de la prohibición, Claudia llevó unos gusanos de seda a casa. Los sacó del
tarro de cristal donde tarde o temprano acabarían sofocándose y los metió en una caja de
cartón que por su forma cuadrada habría contenido cedés y que encontró en el armario
del pasillo. Agujereó la tapa con la punta de las tijeras de la cocina. Y escondió la caja en
el cesto de los juguetes, allí donde su madre nunca miraba.
La madre de Claudia decía que los animales solo eran bonitos cuando estaban sueltos
por el campo. Que las ciudades son para las personas. Pero muchos fines de semana,
cuando todavía vivían con el padre de Claudia, las llevaban a ella y a su hermana al zoo.
Todos eran felices: la familia que posaba en las fotos con globos y manzanas cubiertas
de caramelo, y los animales que vivían encerrados en las jaulas.
Aquel día, para que la madre no sospechara nada, Claudia se portó excepcionalmente
bien: recogió la cocina, hizo sus deberes y ayudó a bañar a su hermana pequeña. Se
cepilló el pelo y se puso las zapatillas de andar por casa a pesar de que le hacían daño.
A su madre este comportamiento le pareció normal y no la felicitó. Últimamente estaba
muy distraída. Se le caían las tazas de las manos mientras fregaba, se dejaba las gafas
olvidadas en todas partes y cada vez que alguien llamaba por teléfono le pedía a Claudia
que saliera de la cocina y que cerrara la puerta.
Esa misma noche, a su madre se le olvidó darle un beso después de que Claudia se
acostara. Tampoco dejó encendida la luz del pasillo. Toda la noche Claudia tuvo miedo
de que algo saliera de debajo de la cama.
Durante los días siguientes Claudia aprovechó el tiempo que mediaba entre el
momento en el que ella regresaba del colegio y lo que tardaba su madre en ir a buscar a
la hermana a la guardería para dar de comer a los gusanos un par de hojas de morera.
Claudia había decidido que los gusanos con las rayas negras eran los machos y los de
cuerpo liso y blanco eran las hembras. Había tres machos y cuatro hembras. Le gustaba
sobre todo pasarles el dedo por encima porque eran suaves. En cambio, cuando los
ponía sobre su mano, resultaban más bien pegajosos. Las patas de los gusanos eran
como ventosas.
Había muy poca gente en su clase que tuviera gusanos de seda. Estaba muy
orgullosa. Claudia ya no era la niña rara por pasarse el día pintando o porque sus padres
no durmieran juntos. Claudia era especial porque podía hacer algo que los demás tenían
Trinity Journal of Literary Translation
Online: The Silkworms
trans. Ursula Meany Scott
Despite it being forbidden, Claudia brought some silkworms home. She took them out
of the glass jar where sooner or later they would run out of air and put them in a cardboard
box that must have contained cds going by its shape, and which she found in the hall
cupboard. She pierced holes in the lid with the tip of the kitchen scissors. And she hid the
box in the toy basket, where her mother would never look.
Claudia’s mother said that animals were only beautiful when they were loose in the
countryside. That cities were for people. But on many weekends when they still lived with
Claudia’s father, she and her sister used to brought by their parents to the zoo. They were
all happy: the family who posed in photos with balloons and candy-covered apples, and
the animals who lived shut up in the enclosures.
That day, so that her mother wouldn’t suspect anything, Claudia behaved exceptionally
well: she cleared up the kitchen, did her homework and helped bathe her little sister. She
brushed her hair and put on her slippers for walking around the house even though they
hurt her. To her mother this behaviour seemed normal and she didn’t offer any praise.
Lately she was very distracted. She dropped cups when she was washing up, she left her
glasses behind her all over the place and every time someone called on the telephone
she asked Claudia to leave the kitchen and close the door behind her.
That same night, Claudia’s mother forgot to give her a kiss when she went to bed.
She didn’t even switch on the hall light. All night long Claudia lay there frightened that
something would climb out from under the bed.
Over the following days, Claudia made the most of the gap between the moment she
arrived home from school and the time it took her mother to go and pick her sister up from
the crèche to feed her worms a couple of mulberry leaves. Claudia had decided that the
worms with the black stripes were the males and those with the plain white bodies were
the females. What she liked best was running her finger over them because they were
smooth. On the other hand, when she put them on her hand, they were more sticky. The
worms’ legs were ribbed.
There were very few people in her class who had silkworms. She was very proud.
Claudia was no longer the strange girl because she spent the day painting or because her
parents didn’t sleep together. She was special because she could do something that the
others weren’t allowed to do. The teacher had asked who could look after the silkworms
prohibido. La profesora había preguntado quién podía ocuparse de ellos mientras alzaba
un bote de cristal por encima de su cabeza lleno de gusanos queparecían macarrones
ondulantes. Y solo Claudia y otra niña habían levantado la mano.Al llegar el recreo se
sentaba en un banco esperando que alguien viniera a preguntarle lo que hacían los
gusanos: cómo comían, si dormían o si eran capaces de subirse por las paredes, por
ejemplo; pero por ahora nadie se había acercado a ella. Sabía que era cuestión de
tiempo. Sabía también que en cuanto los gusanos se convirtieran en mariposas, todas
las niñas querrían que Claudia las describiera.
Los gusanos comían muchísimo, pero no hacían ruido. Se movían por la caja con
rapidez y, a pesar de que Claudia no estuviera muy segura de dónde tenían los ojos,
estaba convencida de que cuando ella se acercaba a la caja de cartón, los gusanos la
miraban y la reconocían.
Claudia prefería la compañía de aquellos gusanos a la de su hermana. También
prefería estar con sus juguetes y con la televisión. Era mejor incluso estar con su madre,
aunque esta a veces le pidiera que por favor le dejara tranquila y que no le contara sus
Los gusanos comían para ponerse gordos. A Claudia ya no le quedaba ninguna duda
de que pronto se convertirían en mariposas. Los imaginaba volando por su habitación,
posándose en la cara de su perro de peluche, en la lámpara y en el bote de los lápices
de colores. Luego los imaginaba saliendo por la ventana, hacia el patio de vecinos, en
una nube de mariposas de colores. Se elevarían por las paredes amarillentas llenas de
manchas de humedades y de desconchones hacia el agujero del cielo.
La hermana pequeña estaba aprendiendo a comer cosas sólidas. A veces alguien
llamaba por teléfono a la hora de cenar. Mientras la madre hablaba, Claudia vigilaba
que la hermana pequeña se comiera la galleta y los pequeños trozos de jamón sin
atragantarse. La hermana pequeña utilizaba el tenedor de plástico para golpearlo todo: el
vaso con el agua, la trona y la cabeza de su hermana, pero jamás cogía con él la comida.
La hermana lo mordía todo. Le estaban saliendo los dientes.
Después de cenar, y antes de que su madre viniera a apagarle la luz, Claudia
comprobaba que los gusanos estuvieran bien. Les pasaba el dedo por el lomo y luego
los escondía de nuevo en el cesto de los juguetes.
Una mañana antes de que los gusanos se convirtieran en mariposas, su madre la
despertó con sus chillidos. Claudia se levantó corriendo. Era de noche.
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as she held up a glass container above her head full of the caterpillars that looked like
squirming macaroni. And only Claudia and one other girl had raised their hands. When
break time came she sat on a bench waiting for someone to come and ask her what the
worms were doing: how they ate and whether they slept or were able to climb up the walls
for example; but so far nobody had come near her. She knew it was just a matter of time.
She also knew that as soon as the silkworms turned into butterflies, all the girls would
want Claudia to describe them.
The silkworms ate an awful lot, but didn’t make any noise. They moved around the
box rapidly and, despite the fact that Claudia wasn’t very sure where there eyes were,
she was convinced that when they saw her approaching the cardboard box, the silkworms
looked at her and recognised her.
Claudia preferred the company of those silkworms to that of her sister. She also
preferred being with her toys and with the television. It was even preferable to be with her
mother, although sometimes she would ask Claudia to please leave her in peace and not
tell her her stories.
The silkworms ate to get fat. Claudia had no doubt they would turn into butterflies
soon. She imagined them flying around her room, landing on her toy dog, on the light and
in the box of colouring pencils. Then she imagined them flying out the window, towards
the communal patio, a cloud of coloured butterflies. They would go up by the yellowy walls
covered in damp stains and flaking paint toward the hole of the sky.
The little sister was learning to eat solids. Sometimes someone telephoned at dinner
time. While her mother was talking, Claudia made sure that the little sister ate the biscuit
and the little pieces of ham without choking. The little sister used the plastic fork to hit
everything: the water glass, the high chair and her sister’s head, but never caught the
food with it.
The sister bit everything. She had teeth coming up.
After dinner, and before her mother came to put out the light, Claudia made sure that
the silkworms were alright. She ran her finger along their backs and then hid them once
more in the toy basket.
One morning before the silkworms had turned into butterflies, she was woken up by
her mother’s screams. Claudia got up running. It was night time.
She had trouble recognising what her mother was pointing out to her as she held the
Le costó reconocer aquello que su madre señalaba mientras sostenía a la hermana
pequeña en sus brazos.
– ¿Sabes lo que es? – le preguntó entre gritos.
Claudia odiaba que su madre chillara y se tapó los oídos.
– Que si sabes lo que es.
Claudia negó con la cabeza.
Era mentira y mentir está muy mal. Claro que sabía lo que era: la mitad de uno de los
cuerpos de sus gusanos en la cuna de su hermana.
– Yo no puedo seguir así – los gritos de su madre se habían convertido en llantos – ,
yo no puedo hacer esto sola.
La madre de Claudia obligó a su hermana a abrir la boca. La niña tenía ya cuatro
dientes muy blancos y puntiagudos en una boca llena de encías sonrosadas y babosas.
La madre de Claudia no encontró nada y se echó a llorar. Luego fue a la cocina para
hablar por teléfono. Llevaba a la hermana pequeña en brazos, apoyada en la cadera.
Claudia se acercó a la cuna para ver de cerca el resto de gusano. Era la mitad de atrás.
De una hembra. Le faltaba la cabeza y los ojos. Y cuando pasó el dedo por encima, notó
su piel suave ligeramente húmeda.
Claudia sabía que cuando su madre se ponía así era mejor no hacer ni decir nada, a
pesar de que quería enterrar al gusano, o tirarlo al váter. En todo caso sacarlo de la cuna.
Así que volvió a su habitación y se sentó en la cama. La madre al cabo de unos minutos
se agachó frente a ella y sacó una maleta de debajo de la cama. A la madre no le daba
miedo que allí hubiera monstruos.
– Mete en ella todo lo que necesites para una semana – le dijo.
Con un nudo en la garganta, Claudia le preguntó.
– ¿Me echas de casa?
Las lágrimas se le saltaban de los ojos. Se había prometido que ella era fuerte, que
nunca más lloraría, pero aquella situación le parecía muy injusta. ¡Había sido su hermana
quien se había comido su gusano!
– Os voy a mandar a las dos a casa de la abuela. Yo necesito descansar.
La abuela les daba para desayunar magdalenas. Y una leche que siempre sabía a
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little sister in her arms.
‘Do you know what that is?’ she asked Claudia between shouts.
Claudia hated when her mother screamed and covered her ears.
‘Of course you know what it is.’
Claudia shook her head.
It was a lie and lying was very bad. Of course she knew what it was: half of one of the
silkworm’s bodies in her sister’s crib.
‘I can’t go on like this,’ her mother’s screaming had turned into tears, ‘I can’t do this
on my own.’
Claudia’s mother made her sister open her mouth. The little girl had four very white
and pointy teeth already in a mouth full of pink slobbery gums. Claudia’s mother found
nothing inside and burst into tears. Then she went into the kitchen to use the phone. She
lifted the little sister in her arms, resting her on her hip. Claudia moved closer to the crib
to see close up what remained of the silkworm. It was the back end. Of a female. It was
missing a head and the eyes. And when she ran her finger over it, she noticed its smooth
skin was slightly damp.
Claudia knew that when her mother was like this it was better not to do or say anything,
even though she wanted to bury the silkworm, or throw it down the toilet. In any case to
take it out of the crib. So she went back to her room and sat on the bed. After a few
minutes her mother knelt in front of her and took out a suitcase from under the bed. Her
mother was not afraid of monsters under there.
‘Put everything you need for a week in here,’ she said.
With a lump in her throat, Claudia asked her, ‘Are you throwing me out of the house?’
Her eyes filled with tears. She had promised herself she was strong, that she’d never
cry again, but this situation seemed very unfair to her, it was her sister who had eaten her
‘I’m sending the two of you to your grandmother’s house. I need to rest.’
The grandmother gave them cupcakes for breakfast. And milk that always tasted
sour. Claudia was sleeping in her dead uncle’s bedroom. On the walls were posters of
aeroplanes and the wardrobes were full of clothes. One day Claudia started drawing with
rancio. Claudia dormía en la habitación del tío muerto. En las paredes había pósteres de
aviones y los armarios estaban llenos de ropa. Un día Claudia comenzó a pintar con los
lápices que había en un bote encima de la mesa de estudio y la abuela entró echando
escupitajos por la boca y le dijo que nunca, nunca, nunca se atreviera a tocar nada de
esa habitación. A Claudia le dio mucho miedo. Su abuela era como un monstruo que
podía matarla. Por eso Claudia dormía muy quieta en la cama y apenas probaba las
magdalenas del desayuno: por si acaso las sábanas y los bollos tenían un dueño muerto
o desaparecido.
El primer día la abuela le había dicho que ya era muy mayor para bañarse y que a
partir de ese día tendría que ducharse ella sola. Sentada en el váter, Claudia se ponía el
pijama y luego cenaba con el bebé y su abuela delante del televisor. La abuela siempre
preparaba tortilla francesa por la noche, pero luego, cuando llamaba su madre, le
obligaba a decir a Claudia que habían comido judías o pollo o un filete.
La madre le preguntaba: ¿estás bien?
Y ella siempre decía que sí.
A la hora de dormir, Claudia cerraba la puerta, apagaba la luz y se escondía debajo
de las sábanas.
La abuela no se duchaba y no comía casi nada. Sólo salía de casa para llevar a
Claudia al colegio o para ir a misa. Los domingos la obligaba a ponerse el vestido que le
picaba en el cuello y luego, a la entrada de la iglesia, le presentaba a todas sus amigas.
Todas la besaban y le estiraban de los mofletes. Le decían que era una niña muy guapa
y muy obediente. Las amigas de su abuela olían como su abuela. A sucio, a tortilla, a pis
de gato. Pero esa era otra de las cosas de las que no se podía hablar con su madre: del
olor de la abuela.
En la iglesia debían estar muy calladas y quietas. Su abuela le dijo a Claudia que
pidiera a Dios que ayudara a su madre. Que pidiera también por su tío, para que fuera
al cielo. Claudia prefería pedir por sus gusanos de seda, para que se convirtieran en
mariposas y volaran muy lejos de allí.
La otra niña ya había tenido mariposas. Un día se había levantado y su cuarto estaba
lleno. Les había dicho a todas que eran preciosas, de colores: rojo, azul y verde y que
cuando volaban eran como pequeños arco iris.
Todos los niños de la clase se reunían en torno a la otra niña para que les hablara de
sus mariposas. Y Claudia la observaba desde lejos, odiando a su madre y a su abuela
y a su hermana. Pero sobre todo a aquella niña que podía tenerlo todo mientras ella no
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the pencils from a box on top of the desk and the grandmother came in spitting at her to
never, never, never dare touch anything from that room. She really frightened Claudia.
Her grandmother was like a monster who could kill her. So Claudia would lie very still in
the bed and barely taste the breakfast cupcakes, in case the sheets and the buns had a
dead owner or lost soul.
On the first day the grandmother had told her that she was much too big at this stage
to have baths and that from that day on she had to shower by herself. Sitting in the
bathroom, Claudia put her pyjamas on by herself and afterwards ate her dinner with
the baby and her grandmother in front of the television. The grandmother always made
French omelette at night, but later, when she called her mother, she made Claudia say
that they had eaten green beans or chicken or a steak.
The mother asked her, ‘Are you well?’
And she always said yes.
At bedtime, Claudia closed the door, turned out the light and hid beneath the
The grandmother didn’t wash and ate barely anything. She only left the house to
bring Claudia to school or to go to mass. On Sundays she made her put on the dress that
scratched her neck and afterwards, at the entrance to the church, presented her to all her
friends. They all kissed her and pinched her chubby cheeks. They told her she was a very
pretty and obedient little girl. Her grandmother’s friends smelled like her grandmother.
Of dirt, omelette, cat’s piss. But this was another thing she couldn’t talk about with her
mother: the grandmother’s smell.
At church they had to keep very quiet and still. Her grandmother told her that Claudia
should ask God to help her mother. That she should also pray for her uncle, so that he
would go to heaven. Claudia preferred to pray for her silkworms to turn into butterflies
and fly far away.
The other little girl had already got butterflies. One day she had woken up and her
room was filled with them. She had told them that they were all beautiful, coloured red,
blue and green, and that when they flew, they were like little rainbows.
All the children in the class joined the other girl in turn to hear about her butterflies.
And Claudia watched them from a distance, hating her mother and her grandmother and
her sister. But above all hating that little girl who could have everything while she had
tenía nada.
A escondidas, Claudia pintó con los lápices de su tío muerto una mariposa amarilla y
morada en un folio que escondió debajo de la almohada. Cuando estaba triste o se sentía
sola, Claudia sacaba el dibujo y lloraba. Era una mariposa muy bonita, pero le ponía
triste. Un día la abuela descubrió el dibujo y lo tiró a la basura sin decirle nada. Claudia
quiso contárselo a su madre, pero la abuela le dijo que ya era la hora de colgar.
Así que cuando su madre le preguntó que si estaba bien, ella contestó que sí.
Esa noche la abuela le castigó sin tortilla y sin ver la televisión. Así aprendería.
Claudia no volvió a tocar las cosas del tío muerto.
A veces, en el colegio, alguien se acordaba y le preguntaba por sus gusanos, Claudia
decía que estaban creciendo, que cada día eran más grandes, que tenían ya el tamaño
de su brazo, que la reconocían, que respondían a su nombre y que todas las noches
dormía abrazada a ellos.
Un día una de las niñas le dijo que era una mentirosa y Claudia le dio un mordisco.
La tutora de Claudia llamó a su madre y durante más de media hora se encerraron en un
despacho. Cuando la madre de Claudia salió de él, tenía los ojos llorosos. Se la llevó a
merendar y le dijo que podía pedir lo que quisiera.
– ¿Estás enfadada?
La madre le dio un beso en el pelo.
– Claro que no, mi vida. Ha sido por mi culpa.
Claudia pidió tortitas con nata y la madre ya no añadió nada más.
– ¿Puedo volver a casa?
– No, mi vida. Ahora te voy a llevar de vuelta a casa de la abuela y vas a ser muy
La abuela le dijo que era una niña muy mala, que las niñas que muerden se van al
infierno y la castigó sin cena y sin ducha. Al día siguiente, al llegar a clase, Claudia le dijo
a todo el mundo que los gusanos se habían muerto y que ella, su hermana y su madre
habían ido al parque a enterrarlos. Su madre los había envuelto en trapos de cocina y
jnntas habían escarbado un agujero en la arena. Luego su madre había puesto nnas
cruces que había hecho con palillos y jnntas habían rezado una oración preciosa.
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In secret, Claudia drew a yellow and purple butterfly with her uncle’s pencils on a
page she hid under her pillow. When she was sad or felt lonely, Claudia would take
out the drawing and cry. It was a very pretty butterfly, but it made her sad. One day the
grandmother found the drawing and threw it in the bin saying nothing. Claudia wanted to
tell her mother about it, but the grandmother told her it was time to hang up already.
So when her mother asked her if she was well, she answered yes.
That night the grandmother punished her by not giving her any omelette and not
allowing her to watch television. That way she would learn. Claudia didn’t touch her dead
uncle’s things again.
Sometimes, in school, someone would remember and ask her about the silkworms.
Claudia told them that they were growing, that every day they were bigger, that they were
the length of her arm now, that they recognised her, that they responded to their names
and that every night she went to sleep hugging them.
One day one of the little girls told her she was a liar and Claudia bit her. Claudia’s tutor
called her mother and for more than half an hour they were shut up together in the office.
When her mother came out, she had tears in her eyes. She brought her for a treat and
told her she could pick anything she liked.
‘Are you mad?’
The mother kissed her hair.
‘Of course not, sweetheart. It was my fault.’
Claudia asked for pancakes with cream and her mother didn’t say anything more.
‘Can I come home?’
‘No, love. I’m going to take you back to your grandmother’s house now and you’ll be
The grandmother told her she was a very bad little girl, that little girls who bit people
went to hell and she punished her with no dinner and no shower. The following day, when
she arrived into class, Claudia told everyone that the silkworms were dead and that she,
her sister and her mother had gone to the park to bury them. Her mother had wrapped
them in tea towels and together they had dug a hole in the sand. Then her mother had
planted some crosses she’d made with matchsticks on top and together they had a said
a lovely prayer.
Pero eran pocas las niñas que la escuchaban. Ese día Claudia no jugó con ninguna
en el patio. Se sentó en el poyete de ladrillo que rodeaba las esmirriadas plantas que
las monjas cultivaban para que en la foto de fin de curso el colegio pareciera muy
antiguo, muy frondoso y muy elitista. Nadie se acercó a ella tampoco. Nadie le pidió que
compartiera su merienda o que le contara otra vez la historia de los gusanos.
Durante el resto de la semana sucedió lo mismo: Claudia se sentaba en el muro de
ladrillo y veía cómo sus compañeras de clase jugaban a juegos pacíficos, a juegos de
La profesora la puso en la primera fila. No le dijo nada pero ella sabía que era para
tenerla controlada. Era una niña agresiva a la que había que vigilar. El viernes, a lasalida
del colegio, la abuela la esperaba con su hermana en brazos.
– Vamos – le dijo.
– ¿Adónde vamos, abuela?
– A la iglesia.
Claudia todavía no había hecho la primera comunión, tampoco se había confesado
nunca. Pero su abuela le dijo que por un pecado tan grandísimo como es el pegar a una
amiguita hay que pedirle perdón a Dios.
Su abuela se había puesto el vestido del domingo y el maquillaje que se salía de los
La iglesia, sin todas las amigas de su abuela, con sus estolas peludas y sus abrigos
de colores, parecía un lugar tétrico. En las dos capillas laterales, humeaban velas finas
como huesos. Las caras de los santos y las vírgenes tenían ojos acuosos y las manos
llenas de sangre.
La abuela dejó a la hermana pequeña en un banco de madera frente a la sacristía y
cogió a Claudia por un brazo. La obligó a arrodillarse y ella se puso detrás.
– Ave María purísima.
– Sin pecado concebida – contestó su abuela.
– En qué puedo ayudarte hija.
– Mi nieta está en pecado mortal y me gustaría que la confesara.
– ¿Y qué ha hecho su nieta?
– Ha mordido a una niña.
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But very few of the girls listened to her. That day Claudia didn’t play with anyone in the
yard. She sat in the brick ledge that circled the scrawny plants the nuns grew so that in
the end of term photograph the school would look very old-fashioned, very leafy and very
elitist. Nobody came near her either. Nobody asked her to share her lunch or tell them the
story about the silkworms again.
For the rest of the week the same thing happened: Claudia sat on the brick wall and
saw how her classmates played quiet games, games for young ladies.
The teacher put her in the front row. She didn’t say anything to her, but Claudia knew
it was so that she could keep an eye on her. She was an aggressive child who needed
watching. On Friday, when she came out of school, the grandmother was waiting for her
with her sister in her arms.
‘Come on,’ she said.
‘Where are we going, granny?’
‘To church.’
Claudia still hadn’t made her first communion, so she had never confessed before.
But her grandmother told her that for a sin so huge as hurting a little friend she had to ask
God’s forgiveness.
Her grandmother had put on her Sunday clothes and the make-up that smeared out
over her lips
In the absence of her grandmother’s friends with their furry shawls and coloured
overcoats, the church seemed a dismal place. In the two side chapels, there were tall
candles as thin as bones burning. The faces of the saints and the virgins had watery eyes
and hands covered in blood.
The grandmother left the little sister on a wooden bench facing the sacristy and
grabbed Claudia by an arm. She made her kneel down and stood behind her.
‘Hail Mary most pure.’
‘Conceived without sin,’ her grandmother responded.
‘How may I help you, daughter?’
‘My granddaughter is in mortal sin and I’d like her to confess.’
‘And what did your granddaughter do?’
‘She bit a little girl.’
El sacerdote se calló. La abuela puso sus manos sobre los hombros de Claudia. Para
que no se moviera.
– ¿Es verdad eso?
– Sí – contestó ella.
– Eso está muy feo. Por cosas como estas te puedes ir al infierno. ¿Estás arrepentida?
– Sí – mintió ella.
– Eso es lo importante. Dios siempre perdona a la gente que le pide perdón con
humildad. Pídele perdón con humildad.
– Perdón.
La abuela, a la salida de la iglesia, le dio un abrazo y un beso que le dejó la mejilla
húmeda. Claudia se limpió disimuladamente.
– Te voy a llevar a merendar.
La abuela se estaba terminando el café cuando se dio cuenta de que se había dejado
a la hermana pequeña olvidada en la iglesia. Se puso como loca. No dejó que Claudia
se acabara su sándwich. Lloraba, le gritaba, le decía que era su hermana, que era su
responsabilidad y que debería habérselo recordado.
Afortunadamente el sacerdote había encontrado al bebé llorando y se lo había
llevado a la sacristía. Hacía poco tiempo que habían quitado el portal de belén y la cuna
del niño Jesús estaba todavía allí, esperando que las monjas la guardaran en el altillo.
Había metido a la hermana entre la paja de plástico y el muñeco de porcelana, con los
dedos en forma de uve, lo había dejado sobre una mesa cubierta con un mantel blanco.
La abuela se postró ante la niña y entre lágrimas decía: mi niña, mi niña. El sacerdote
intentó tranquilizarla: no se preocupe, esto le puede suceder a cualquiera. La hermana
pequeña reía mientras se llevaba pajas de plástico a su boca y las masticaba con sus
encías casi sin dientes.
A pesar de que la abuela le prohibiera contarle nada de aquel episodio a su madre, al
final esta se enteró. Ese mismo día recogió a sus hijas y se las llevó a casa.
La madre de Claudia tenía muy mal aspecto y olía a sudor. En la casa todo estaba
desordenado y sucio: el lavabo lleno de pelos y por el pasillo rodaban las pelusas.
Afortunadamente, el cuarto de Claudia estaba tal y como lo había dejado.
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The priest went quiet. The grandmother put her hands on Claudia’s shoulders. So she
wouldn’t move.
‘Is this true?’
‘Yes,’ she answered.
‘This is very bad. You can go to hell for something like that. Are you sorry?’
‘Yes,’ she lied.
‘That’s the important thing. God always pardons those who ask forgiveness with
‘Forgive me.’
On her way out of the church, the grandmother hugged her and gave her a kiss that
left her cheek wet. Claudia cleaned it covertly.
‘I’m going to bring you for a treat.’
The grandmother was finishing her coffee when she realised that she’d left the little
sister behind in the church. She went crazy. She didn’t let Claudia finish her sandwich. She
was crying, shouting, telling her that she was her sister, that she was her responsibility
and she should have remembered her.
Thankfully the priest had found the baby crying and brought her into the sacristy. It
wasn’t long since they’d taken out the nativity scene and baby Jesus’s crib was still there,
waiting for the nuns to stow it away in the attic. He had put the sister between the plastic
hay and the china figure with its v-shaped fingers and left the crib on a table spread with
a white tablecloth. The grandmother fell to her knees before the child and between cries
said: my child, my child. The priest tried to calm her down: don’t worry, this could happen
to anyone. The little sister was laughing while she picked up the plastic hay, put it in her
mouth and chewed it with her almost tooth-free gums.
Despite the fact the grandmother had forbade her from telling her mother anything
about the incident, in the end she found out. That same day she collected her daughters
and brought them home.
Claudia’s mother looked very bad and smelled dirty. The house was a total mess and
filthy: the bathroom full of hairs and dust rolling around in the hall. Thankfully Claudia’s
bedroom was as she had left it.
La madre llenó la bañera y comenzó a bañar a la hermana pequeña. A Claudia le
pareció extraño que hiciera eso cuando la que olía mal no era el bebé, pero no dijo nada.
Temía que si comentaba cualquier cosa volvería a mandarla a casa de la abuela.
Como sabía que su madre estaba ocupada, fue a la habitación y abrió la caja de los
gusanos. Estaba llena de pequeños cuerpos de gusano negros, como los restos que
dejaba su goma de borrar sobre el cuaderno de ejercicios. Huevos rotos. Había también
unas mariposas blancas muy feas y muy pequeñas, también muertas y que en nada se
parecían a las que ella había dibujado.
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The mother filled the bath and began washing the little sister. To Claudia it seemed
strange she was doing that when the baby wasn’t the one who smelled bad, but she didn’t
say anything. She was afraid that if she mentioned anything she would be sent back to
the grandmother’s house again.
As she knew her mother was busy, she went into the bedroom. It was full of little black
silkworm bodies, like the marks left by her rubber on her workbook. Broken eggs. There
were also some very ugly and very small white butterflies, dead too and not resembling
the ones she had drawn in the slightest.
Italian • Featured Translator: O’Connor
Featured Translator: Finn O’Connor
Michelangelo 21
Chiunche nasce a morte arriva
nel fuggir del tempo; e ‘l sole
niuna cosa lascia viva.
Manca il dolce e quel che dole
e gl’ingegni e le parole;
e le nostre antiche prole
al sole ombre, al vento un fummo.
Come voi uomini fummo,
lieti e tristi, come siete;
e or siàn, come vedete,
terra al sol, di vita priva.
Ogni cosa a morte arriva
Già fur gli occhi nostri interi
con la luce in ogni speco;
or son voti, orrendi e neri,
e ciò porta il tempo seco.
Trinity Journal of Literary Translation
Michelangelo 21
Whoever is born
borne along Time
is bound to die –
to the end at last.
The sun leaves nothing
Pleasure and anguish,
with all our words
here alive.
both are lost
and all our thoughts.
And all the worth
of our families’ stocks
is a shadow in the sunlight,
As are the rest of you,
as happy, as miserable.
We are not, as you see,
We are dust in the sun,
Everything here
Once our eyes
with shining lights
so were we:
We were men.
as we were then.
deprived of life.
is bound to die.
were filled to the brim
now they are hollow,
brought by Time
smoke in the breeze.
in these socketed caves;
black and grim –
to this, its wake.
Italian • Featured Translator: O’Connor
Michelangelo 94
D’altrui pietoso e sol di sé spietato
nasce un vil bruto, che con pena e doglia
l’altrui man veste e la suo scorza spoglia
e sol per morte si può dir ben nato.
Così volesse al mie signor mie fato
vestir suo viva di mie morta spoglia
che, come serpe al sasso si discoglia,
pur per morte potria cangiar mie stato.
O fussi sol la mie l’irsuta pelle
che, del suo pel contesta, fa tal gonna
che con ventura stringe sì bel seno,
ch’i’ l’are’ pure il giorno; o le pianelle
che fanno a quel di lor basa e colonna,
ch’i’ pur ne porterei duo nevi almeno.
Trinity Journal of Literary Translation
Michelangelo 94
Born merciful for others and merciless with itself,
a brute so base, pathetic and so sad
it gloves its skin around another’s hand
is only worth its birth in death.
I wish it could have been my fate to dress
my hide around the body of that lord, my man—
like a snake that moults its skin against a slab
I’d alter my condition through my death.
If only that O so lucky pelt were mine
that binds around so beautiful a breast
with the plaited furs of itself, his robe –
I’d have him through the day – or, at his base, if I
could be his slippers, at the very least
I’d carry him two winters through the snow.
Italian • Featured Translator: O’Connor
Michelangelo 95
Rendete agli occhi mei, o fonte o fiume,
l’onde della non vostra e salda vena,
che più v’innalza e cresce, e con più lena
che non è ‘l vostro natural costume.
E tu, folt’aïr, che ‘l celeste lume
tempri a’ trist’occhi, de’ sospir mie piena,
rendigli al cor mie lasso e rasserena
tua scura faccia al mie visivo acume.
Renda la terra i passi alle mie piante,
c’ancor l’erba germugli che gli è tolta,
e ‘l suono eco, già sorda a’ mie lamenti;
gli sguardi agli occhi mie tuo luce sante,
ch’i’ possa altra bellezza un’altra volta
amar, po’ che di me non ti contenti.
Trinity Journal of Literary Translation
Michelangelo 95
Fountain— river, give back to my eyes
those endless breakers, never yours,
that surge you further than your natural course,
from a vein that swells beneath you as you rise.
O humid air, so heavy with my sighs—
shielding the brightness from these mournful orbs,
return them to my tired heart and clear, once more,
your darkened features for my sharpened sight.
Let the soil give back my footsteps to my soles
so the grass they trampled might sprout anew,
and from Echo, deaf, return my pleas,
and to my eyes the glances from your hallowed glow –
that I, now you no longer feel for me,
might love some other beauty after you.
Italian • Featured Translator: O’Connor
Online: Michelangelo 101
Perché Febo non torce e non distende
d’intorn’ a questo globo freddo e molle
le braccia sua lucenti, el vulgo volle
notte chiamar quel sol che non comprende.
E tant’è debol, che s’alcun accende
un picciol torchio, in quella parte tolle
la vita dalla notte, e tant’è folle
che l’esca col fucil la squarcia e fende.
E s’egli è pur che qualche cosa sia,
cert’è figlia del sol e della terra;
ché l’un tien l’ombra, e l’altro sol la cria.
Ma sia che vuol, che pur chi la loda erra,
vedova, scura, in tanta gelosia,
c’una lucciola sol gli può far guerra.
Trinity Journal of Literary Translation
Online: Michelangelo 101
Phoebus never stretches – never hugs with light
the whole circumference of this cold, damp, globe
and so, by the rabble, we are always told
that sun misunderstood is night.
She is so feeble, if a man should strike
the frailest match, her life is robbed –
broken and split under flint and logs,
she is so nervous and so shy.
And yet, she’s daughter to the sun and earth
if, really, she is anything at all;
the latter holds her shadow and the former gives it birth.
But they’re mistaken who, for all this, call
her mighty. She’s a widow – dour, and so desperate that, for her,
a firefly’s glimmer is an act of war.
Italian • Featured Translator: O’Connor
Online: Michelangelo 103
Ogni van chiuso, ogni coperto loco,
quantunche ogni materia circumscrive,
serba la notte, quando il giorno vive,
contro al solar suo luminoso gioco.
E s’ella è vinta pur da fiamma o foco,
da lei dal sol son discacciate e prive
con più vil cosa ancor sue specie dive,
tal c’ogni verme assai ne rompe o poco.
Quel che resta scoperto al sol, che ferve
per mille vari semi e mille piante,
il fier bifolco con l’aratro assale;
ma l’ombra sol a piantar l’uomo serve.
Dunche, le notti più ch’e’ dì son sante,
quanto l’uom più d’ogni altro frutto vale.
Trinity Journal of Literary Translation
Online: Michelangelo 103
Each closed off space, each covered place,
and every canopy that circumscribes
preserves the nighttime, while the day survives,
from the sun and the sport of his beaming rays.
And, as she can be conquered by a fire or a flame,
her subtler hallowed features could be scattered and defiled
by sunlight – or some light – or even something vile.
So very much broken by the glowing of a worm.
Whatever gets seeded for a thousand plants
and left under sunshine to sprout in the heat,
the forceful ploughman will harrow and chop.
But only the dark can plant a man.
So the night is more sacred than the day, it seams,
for man’s more valuable than other crops.
Italian • Featured Translator: O’Connor
Online: Michelangelo 151
Non ha l’ottimo artista alcun concetto
c’un marmo solo in sé non circonscriva
col suo superchio, e solo a quello arriva
la man che ubbidisce all’intelletto.
Il mal ch’io fuggo, e ‘l ben ch’io mi prometto,
in te, donna leggiadra, altera e diva,
tal si nasconde; e perch’io più non viva,
contraria ho l’arte al disïato effetto.
Amor dunque non ha, né tua beltate
o durezza o fortuna o gran disdegno
del mio mal colpa, o mio destino o sorte;
se dentro del tuo cor morte e pietate
porti in un tempo, e che ‘l mio basso ingegno
non sappia, ardendo, trarne altro che morte.
Trinity Journal of Literary Translation
Online: Michelangelo 151
No brilliant artist any vision ever made
that wasn’t there already, grafted by the block,
beneath excess of marble, only caught
by hands obedient to the brain.
The evil I flee is hidden with my longed-for grace
in You, beloved— blessèd, fair, but when I’ve sought,
dear lady, to design it so, the work I’ve wrought
has almost cut the life from me. My plans have failed.
No fault of love’s or of your scorn, however harsh,
or fortune, luck, your beauty or my fate,
these evil states by which I’m so beset—
with death and mercy held together in your heart,
the only thing my lowly talents make,
however ardently they burn, is death.
Italian • Featured Translator: O’Connor
Online: Michelangelo 161
Per qual mordace lima
discresce e manca ognor tuo stanca spoglia,
anima inferma? Or quando fie ti scoglia
da quella il tempo, e torni ov’eri, in cielo,
candida e lieta prima,
deposto il periglioso e mortal velo?
Ch’ancor ch’i’ cangi ‘l pelo
per gli ultim’anni e corti,
cangiar non posso il vecchio mie antico uso,
che con più giorni più mi sforza e preme.
Amore, a te nol celo,
ch’i’ porto invidia a’ morti,
sbigottito e confuso,
sì di sé meco l’alma trema e teme.
Signor, nell’ore streme,
stendi ver’ me le tuo pietose braccia,
tomm’a me stesso e famm’un che ti piaccia.
Trinity Journal of Literary Translation
Online: Michelangelo 161
What razored file, o ailing soul,
so harrows down your failing skin—
frail, exhausted, sculpted thin?
When, freed by time, will you arise
To heaven where you were so happy and so fair before—
This mortal veiling cast aside?
For even though I change my hide,
in these few years that I have left,
my oldest habit cannot change—
it weighs me downward by the day and drives me all the more.
Love, from you, I will not hide
That I grow envious of the dead.
Confused, I quake
beside my trembling fearful soul.
O in my final hours, Lord,
make me please you. Stretch your merciful arms to me
and, from myself, please set me free.
Italian • Featured Translator: O’Connor
Online: Michelangelo 247
Caro m’è ‘l sonno, e più l’esser di sasso,
mentre che ‘l danno e la vergogna dura;
non veder, non sentir m’è gran ventura;
però non mi destar, deh, parla basso.
Trinity Journal of Literary Translation
Online: Michelangelo 247
Dear to me is sleep – and dearer still to be made of stone
while still such shame and injury endure;
how lucky am I not to see – not to hear;
and so, I pray you, don’t disturb me – whisper low.
Online: A House Made of Stone
From Tammuz in the City, 1959
Jabra Ibrahim Jabra
Trinity Journal of Literary Translation
Online: A House Made of Stone
From night to night,
curtains wink
and disappear into dust.
The maid knocks on the door: “Two teas?”
A brown knee, soft to the touch of hands and lips
soothes every feeling, calms every memory,
except the one no caress can smooth over:
a house made of stone.
Geraniums sprouted every spring
around its white stairs.
(Is it still there on the hill,
raising up its three arches? Or has it become
a pile of rubble, a home for rats and spiders,
stinging nettles crawling where geraniums once grew?)
The hotel maid will knock on the door to discover
two bare breasts.
I will put on my coat and head out
to the portico, the stairs, the pavement,
to the barefoot vendors
waving their lottery tickets:
“Five thousand dinars! Five thousand dinars!”
trans. Emily Drumsta
(Variations on a Theme)
Start again!
Trinity Journal of Literary Translation
At the onset of dusk, passing through markets
and among brick houses, I see
red flowers on the stairs of our distant house
at the top of the hill
and thousands of men in cafes,
thousands of grave eyes and numb hands,
thousands of lips declaring:
“O God, when we have nothing
grace us with blessings of plenitude!
When we remember, inject us
with a shot of forgetting.
And when we hunger, rain down on us
the fruits of fantasy.”
Seer, dear seer,
what do you read on the palm of my hand?
I see all your grief in a mulberry leaf
your enemies die
say inshallah…
In this skin worn dry
from holding cups and axes?
Perils… travels…
Libraries… fables…
Fortune-teller, don’t lie, what do you see
in this deeply creased hand,
these fleshy thick fingers?
Trinity Journal of Literary Translation
Funerals and marriages…
A dark-skinned woman loves you, and a blonde
across the sea…
Dinars… coins…
Over this cluster of calamities
that rally and conspire
angels hover in circles
flies hover in swarms
reducing love and death
to concepts
like a cackle
in the trembling
of Baghdad’s summer nights.
In the green hills there are houses
of amber and ruby
And our house at the top of the hill?
Stone laid upon stone
white in the light of the morning
green in the light of the moon
And around the house?
Brambles and blood
poison and thorns.
Trinity Journal of Literary Translation
On the day death came to visit—
we were three, night peered down from its summit,
a moon so big it could have been carved from ice.
Laying on our stomachs behind a boulder,
we searched through the dirt for some grim horizon
with rifles in our hands.
The enemy fired a bullet, then another, another.
They buzzed past, the valley returning their echo.
Someone said:
“There is no longer any truth in the world
save this body, the wolves who will eat it,
and the house that I see despite the mountains,
standing tall amidst the trees where the enemy
picks our pomegranates and figs.”
Then he suddenly climbed the boulder,
stood straight as a rail, and showered the enemy
with bullets.
We saw them falling, one, then another, another,
their cries rending the light of the moon.
We crawled, retreating ten meters
on the land of stones, of grapes,
of gold.
But death had come to visit.
We heard a gasp from the dirt,
a stone-splintering cry.
Trinity Journal of Literary Translation
The shower grew silent, bathed as it was
in blood
and the gasp and the cry were cut off at
“our home—”
Our home at the top of the hill
stone laid upon stone
white in the light of the afternoon sun
green in the light of the moon.
From night to night,
all we can do is wait:
O God,
grace us
grace us
recompense for our waiting.
Online: Onward, onward, noble steed
From The Closed Circuit, 1964
Jabra Ibrahim Jabra
Trinity Journal of Literary Translation
Online: Onward, onward, noble steed
Onward, onward, noble steed
to the place my face can follow
to the place where the noontime hour
illuminates the night.
Forward, backward, onward,
what do we care
if the arrow points here or there
for all arrows are traitors
in the horizons’ circuit.
Onward, onward, noble steed,
train with a driver gone mad,
whistling through night’s gardens,
happy for no reason,
lost in the labyrinth, my steed.
Whinny, rejoice,
not for love, not for anything,
hurrying toward your fate, rejoice
toward birth, rejoice.
Hyenas howl with lust,
and a sleepless young beauty shrieks
at the pages of a story
you crushed beneath your hooves
and a poem onto which
you liberally emptied
the contents of your bladder.
Whinny, rejoice,
and gallop on
among the spears, gallop on
between the teeth of killers, my steed,
gallop on over the faces of the dead
trans. Emily Drumsta
Trinity Journal of Literary Translation
even if they’re the faces of our fathers
and the killers—the killers are friends from the road.
Onward, onward
from hunger to hunger
and from hunger to craving.
Whinny, go faster,
drive temptation, emptiness
and weariness from your haunches,
gallop onward, onward
between the never-ending walls.
The pit at the end is the same
as the one at the beginning
and along the way, to deceive the traveler
there are holes—so don’t be deceived:
the path will not be straight
in the morning, and the branches
will not reach the abodes
of primordial spring.
If you need to stop while I’m riding, my steed,
then stop at the ruins
where fortresses impeded
my pleasure—
I love the ruins
the eyes of dancers fluttering
between the cracks in the marble,
and victors peering out over balconies,
contented with the faces
of fifty thousand dead
seventy thousand, a thousand thousand
(who can keep track in the labyrinth,
my steed?)
We left behind us mouths and breasts
burning with intimate fire
and the fragrance of pines in the first rains of winter.
Did we not plant kisses among these stones
and gush with passion every night
among these ruins, while death
Trinity Journal of Literary Translation
called to us from every direction
like the songs of the Sirens?
If you need to stop, then stop
for a while where lips
are more stubborn than daylight,
more lasting than the heads of the pimps
and the mouths of cannons.
Then gallop onward,
to the plains and canyon roads, and return
to foreign streets
where radios howl—
a funeral of the living for the living.
Online: La mer
Loin des grands rochers noirs que baise la marée,
La mer calme, la mer au murmure endormeur,
Au large, tout là-bas, lente s’est retirée,
Et son sanglot d’amour dans l’air du soir se meurt.
La mer fauve, la mer vierge, la mer sauvage,
Au profond de son lit de nacre inviolé
Redescend, pour dormir, loin, bien loin du rivage,
Sous le seul regard pur du doux ciel étoilé.
La mer aime le ciel : c’est pour mieux lui redire,
À l’écart, en secret, son immense tourment,
Que la fauve amoureuse, au large se retire,
Dans son lit de corail, d’ambre et de diamant.
Et la brise n’apporte à la terre jalouse,
Qu’un souffle chuchoteur, vague, délicieux :
L’âme des océans frémit comme une épouse
Sous le chaste baiser des impassibles cieux.
Nérée Beauchemin. Les Floraisons matutinales.
Nérée Beauchemin
Trinity Journal of Literary Translation
Online: The Sea
trans. Caroline Boreham
Far from the large black rocks that the tide caresses,
The calm sea, the sea of lulling murmurs,
Over there, off the coast, slowly draws back.
And her sob of love in the evening air dies off.
The wild sea, the virgin sea, the untamed sea,
To the depths of her inviolate mother-of-pearl bed,
Returns to sleep, far away, very far away from the shore,
Beneath the single pure gaze of the soft starry sky.
The sea loves the sky: it is to better tell him, once more,
Aside, in secret, of her immense torment
That the wild enamoured beast pulls back from the shore
Into her bed of coral, amber and diamond.
And the breeze brings the jealous earth nothing
But a whispering breath; vague, teasing.
The soul of the oceans trembles like a wife
Under the chaste kiss of the impassive heavens.
Modern Greek
Σπίτι με Kήπον
Ήθελα να ’χω ένα σπίτι εξοχικό
μ’ έναν πολύ μεγάλο κήπο— όχι τόσο
για τα λουλούδια, για τα δένδρα, και τες πρασινάδες
(βέβαια να βρίσκονται κι αυτά· είν’ ευμορφότατα)
αλλά για να ’χω ζώα. A να ’χω ζώα!
Τουλάχιστον επτά γάτες— οι δυο κατάμαυρες,
και δυο σαν χιόνι κάτασπρες, για την αντίθεσι.
Έναν σπουδαίο παπαγάλο, να τον αγρικώ
να λέγει πράγματα μ’ έμφασι και πεποίθησιν.
Aπό σκυλιά, πιστεύω τρία θα μ’ έφθαναν.
Θα ’θελα και δυο άλογα (καλά είναι τ’ αλογάκια).
Κι εξ άπαντος τρία, τέσσαρα απ’ τ’ αξιόλογα,
τα συμπαθητικά εκείνα ζώα, τα γαϊδούρια,
να κάθονται οκνά, να χαίροντ’ οι κεφάλες των.
CP Cavafy
From Κρυμμένα Ποιήματα 1877;-1923, Ίκαρος 1993
Κ.Π. Καβάφης1
Trinity Journal of Literary Translation
House with a Garden
trans. Caroline Boreham
I’d like to have a country house
With a very big garden—not so much
For the flowers, for the trees, and the greenery
(certainly those should be found there as well; they’re gorgeous little things1)
But to have animals. Oh but to have animals!
At least seven cats—two completely black,
And two like snow, completely white, for the contrast.
A magnificent parrot, so that I might listen
To it say things with emphasis and conviction.
Concerning dogs, I think three would suffice me.
I would also like two horses (horseys are great fun).
And undoubtedly three, four of those invaluable,
Those endearing animals, the donkeys,
So that they may sit idly and hold their heads up contentedly2.
να χαίροντ’ οι κεφάλες των
Modern Greek
Online: Ένας Γέρος
Στου καφενείου του βοερού το μέσα μέρος
σκυμένος στο τραπέζι κάθετ’ ένας γέρος·
με μιαν εφημερίδα εμπρός του, χωρίς συντροφιά.
Και μες των άθλιων γηρατειών την καταφρόνια
σκέπτεται πόσο λίγο χάρηκε τα χρόνια
που είχε και δύναμι, και λόγο, κ’ εμορφιά.
Ξέρει που γέρασε πολύ· το νοιώθει, το κυττάζει.
Κ’ εν τούτοις ο καιρός που ήταν νέος μοιάζει
σαν χθες. Τι διάστημα μικρό, τι διάστημα μικρό.
Και συλλογιέται η Φρόνησις πως τον εγέλα·
και πως την εμπιστεύονταν πάντα — τι τρέλλα! —
την ψεύτρα που έλεγε· «Aύριο. Έχεις πολύν καιρό.»
Θυμάται ορμές που βάσταγε· και πόση
χαρά θυσίαζε. Την άμυαλή του γνώσι
κάθ’ ευκαιρία χαμένη τώρα την εμπαίζει.
.... Μα απ’ το πολύ να σκέπτεται και να θυμάται
ο γέρος εζαλίσθηκε. Κι αποκοιμάται
στου καφενείου ακουμπισμένος το τραπέζι.
From Ποιήματα 1897-1933, Ίκαρος 1984
Κ.Π. Καβάφης
Trinity Journal of Literary Translation
Online: An Old Man
An old man sits over the table bent
With a magazine in front of him, without company.
And within the contempt of his grim old age
He thinks of how little he delighted in the years
When he had yet strength, and wits, and beauty.
He knows he’s aged a lot; he feels it, he looks at it.
In this sense, the time of his youth could have been
Yesterday. ΅What a short while, what a short while.
And he recalls Prudence, how she duped him
And how he had trusted her invariably—what madness!—
That liar who always said: “Tomorrow. You have lots of time.”
He remembers urges he endured and how
Much joy he sacrificed. His senseless mind now
Mocking every lost opportunity.
…But from the brunt of all this thinking and remembering
In the café inclined over the table.
trans. Caroline Boreham
Deep in the café’s noisy end
The old man dizzied himself. And he lulls to sleep
Shi Zhecun
This translation is of an enjoyable excerpt from At the Grand Theatre in Paris, a short story
by Shi Zhecun. It was written in the 1930’s, but showcases a very modern, quick-witted,
Easton-Ellis/Palahniuk-esque storytelling style: along with such writers’ trademark, lovably
neurotic, hero/narrator.
Original text taken from
Accessed January 9, 2014.
Trinity Journal of Literary Translation
At the Grand Theatre in Paris
trans. Aaron Carr
Why is it that she has to push in front to buy the tickets? I’m ashamed. Is this person
not looking at me? This bald-headed Russian. And this woman: looking me right in the
face. It’s true. And this chap, with the cigar in his mouth: looking at me. They’re all looking
at me. Yeah, I know what they’re thinking. They’re looking down on me. No, they’re
mocking me. I don’t understand why she has to push in front to get the tickets. Did she not
know I’d be offended by it? I’m a man. A gentleman. Has anyone ever seen a man taking a
woman – regardless what kind of woman she may be – to see a film, then letting her pay
for the tickets? Never. I, myself, certainly never have. I can feel my face getting hot: I’ve
probably already gone bright red. Are there no mirrors in here? If not, how can one look
at oneself? Christ, this person’s blatantly laughing at me! You dare to humiliate me in this
way? Did you not see her suddenly rush to the counter to buy the tickets? I had no way of
stopping it. Who expects for such a thing to happen? Ah, I can’t take it. I just want to take
myself back outside: stand for a while on the stairs. How has she still not got the tickets
yet? It’s packed in here! I don’t get why she would struggle through such a crowd to buy
the tickets. Is she really that unwilling to let me take her to the movies?
If so, then why was she willing last night? Why, last night, when I walked her to her
door, did she allow for me to take her out today? Did she think that, today, she would
return the favour? Preposterous! If she really did have such a thing in mind, I can just see
us in the future: you treat me, I treat you, no one paying any mind. How straightforward!
Does she think that I took her to see a film because I wanted to be treated in return?
Could it be? Or perhaps she feels embarrassed at the prospect of always letting me take
her out, and therefore decided that she’d buy the tickets today so as to not lose face?
Yes, it’s certainly possible. Women often have these kinds of ideas. They can indeed be
very much full of themselves at times. What on earth’s going on? Has she still not bought
the tickets? Why don’t I just squeeze to the front and buy the tickets myself? Would that
not relieve me of all these peoples’ ridicule? I ought to. She still may not have got the
tickets yet. What are the prices like in this place? Downstairs: six Jiao1. And upstairs?
This damned head is in the way. I can’t see a thing. It’s probably eight Jiao. What? She’s
walking over. She’s already bought the tickets. That’s very odd: how did not see her?
Oh well, never mind. Let’s go in. But, why has she give both thickets to me? Hold
1The Jiao is a small unit of Chinese currency, currently equivalent to about one pence. Here,
the six Jiao referred to is supposedly reflective of average European cinema ticket prices in the
1930s, when this story was written.
Trinity Journal of Literary Translation
on a minute… These are Circle tickets! Why is she doing this! I get it: this is to do with
my displeasure over getting only Lower Seat tickets two days ago. This is even more
humiliating! I can’t stand it! I would rather break up with her than accept these tickets! No,
I’m never taking her to see a film again. Or anywhere, for that matter. The park; to dinner:
“What’s this person’s name?”
Who? Who is she talking about? Is she asking about the character in the movie?
She’s probably referring to the adjutant. Who is that? I can’t remember. His name is
usually on the tip of my tongue. Why can I not remember now? He’s a big Russian star,
I know. Ah, got it:
“Are you talking about the adjutant? That’s Ivan Mozzhukhin, a famous Russian film
“Oh yeah, it’s him: Ivan Mozzhukhin. I remember now. I’ve often seen him in films. I
really like him.”
What? Like him? How can a Chinese woman actually like someone as cold and stern
as Mozzhukhin? As if! I don’t believe it. Maybe if it was Valentino, then possibly. All of the
major actors get women easily. It’s true. But there’s no danger in movies, really. At least
not like in the foreign films. You like him? Well, how is he supposed to know? Look, he’s
kissing another woman: are you jealous? Haha… Nonsense!
I can feel her looking at me. Not like the glance she gave me just then: now, she’s
actually turned her head to look at me. What does this mean? Shall I turn to meet her
gaze? No, maybe that would make her feel awkward. But she’s clearly laughing at me.
It’s true: I can sense her looking at me, and laughing. What about me does she find so
amusing? Could it be that she understands my strange way of thinking? Now, that’s a
joke! Why don’t I turn my head and confront her? I ought to turn really fast, so that she has
no way of avoiding: that way, I can ask why she’s looking at me and laughing.
“What are you laughing at?”
Ah, that caught her off guard. Is she not embarrassed now? Let’s see how she
What? What kind of response is that? Me? I already know that, you don’t need to spell
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it out for me. I want to know why you’re laughing at me. What part of me is it that you find
so amusing? I’ll ask her again.
“What are you laughing at me for?”
“I’m laughing at the way you’re watching the film: open-mouthed, gawping, like
you’re in a trance.”
Ridiculous! Gawping, like I’m in a trance? Where did that come from? I’m never like
that. Certainly not today, I’m sure of it. Rubbish, absolute nonsense. Women always talk
nonsense. Very clever: that’s definitely not the reason she was laughing. She’s got no
excuse whatsoever. I know. It’s probably just that she can’t sit through the movie without
getting bored. It goes without saying that, in these circumstances, if everyone is behaving
as they should and watching the movie properly, then where’s the fun in that! It’s simple.
People come here to take advantage of the dark.
There are many things that can be done or said only in darkness. Look, she’s leaning
her body towards me. This completely reveals what’s going on. If she says the reason
is that her seat is slanted too much towards the screen, then she should simply turn to
the right. It’s obvious that she’s intentionally trying to lean on me. Let’s lean in closer too:
see if she’ll give in. My God! She didn’t move a bit! Does she not sense what I’m doing?
Could it be that all of this is deliberate? Saying that, though, these last two days, she’s not
once rejected my affections. Why do I still dare not try? I’m so weak. I love her. I love her
already! But, how do I tell her that? Will she be able to accept the love of a married man?
I’m afraid. I’m afraid that if I tell her – even if I just hint at it little by little – she’ll run. She’ll
never want to see me again, not even as mere friends.
It’s the interval already. Half the movie’s already gone. That was quick. I didn’t manage
to catch any of it.
Време разделно
Антон Дончев1
И когато видях зазиданата пещера и разбрах, че хората вътре са мъртви, минах
отново през пожарището и главата ми се завъртя, както се въртяха стъблата на
гората от пушеци. И светът се виеше пред очите ми. още повече, като го гледах
през сълзи.
Отидох при хората от Превала.
А после научихме как турците намерили пещерата, която се нарича сега
Челевещница. Една жена, като обезумяла от глад, тръгнала с двегодишното си
дете да дири гъби и турците я хванали, биели я да каже къде е пещерата, а тя
само плачела. Тогава съблекли детето й голо. Като допрели до него два голи ножа.
А тя не тръгвала, само съвсем загубила разум и викала за помощ. И хората от
Челевещница, като чули гласа й, та го и познали, помислили, че е срещнала звяр,
и излезли на помощ. Турците видели къде е пещерата, обградили я и викнали
на хората да се предадат. А тримата ранени овчари имали още шепа барут, та
гръмнали отвътре и убили първия турчин. И турците натрупали елови клони и ги
запалили, и димът теглел навътре, ала се чували само писъци и никой не излизал.
Тогава зазидали пещерата и хората чували как тракат камъните и плачели, и
никой не излязъл. А турците наклали огромен огън пред пещерата и безумната
майка с двегодишното дете се хвърлила в него, като искала да влезе вътре
при другите. И вече не се чували писъци, защото огънят се вдигнал до небето.
Дали турците побеснели от пламъците, та турили огън на гората, за да изгорят
Anton Donchev
This chapter has been taken from Anton Donchev’s novel Vreme Razdelno (Time of
Secession), which has often been wrongly translated as Time of Violence, just as its
cinematographic alter ego from 1988. The novel was written in forty-one days (according
to Donchev) and published in 1964. Time of Secession offers a dark and oppressive view
of the forceful Islamisation of the Rodopean locality Elindenya, carried out by the Turkish
local administration in 1688. The region has been selected by the Ottoman rulers as an
example of Christian conversion, when the initially pacific tactics fail, violence, revolt
and the massacre ensue upon the locals. The novel is constructed through the subtle
chiaroscuro of the voices of two narrators: father Aligorko, an Orthodox monk who reflects
the Bulgarian perspective of the conflict often questioning their determination to face death
over their loyalty to Christianity. The second narrator is a French court poet known as
“The Venetian” captured by the Ottoman authorities and a new convert Islam who gives a
glimpse of the Turkish perspective as he himself is a survivor of the religious purge through
Trinity Journal of Literary Translation
Time of Sucession
trans. Venina Kalistratova
When I saw the walled up cave and I realised that the people inside were dead, I
revisited the site of the holocaust, my head started spinning in that same way in which
the heartwoods of the forest were distorted by the smoke. And the world was spinning
in front of my eyes, my sight was cloaked by tears. I travelled to the people of Prevala.
It was not but later that we learnt that the Turks had found the cave, which is now called
Cheleveshtniza. A woman, driven mad by hunger, went through the forest with her two
year old son looking for mushrooms and was caught by the gang. They beat her so she
would reveal the whereabouts of the cave, yet all she did was wailing. Then they stripped
her child naked and threatened him with knives. She did not snitch yet cried for help
even more hysterically. When those in the cave heard her shouting,recognised her voice
and feared she had encountered some wild beast in her wanderings then they ran to her
rescue. The Turkish hoard scouted the location of the cave, surrounded it and called the
refugees to surrender. Three wounded shepherds who still had a handful of powder, took
a shot from within and wiped out the Turk standing foremost in the gang. The hosts piled
up fir branches and set them on fire, and even though the smoke was gathering inside,
only screams were heard, nobody came out. The Turkish soldiers made a pyre at the
entrance of the cave and threw the hysterical mother and her two year old, for she was
eager to join the others inside. Screams cold no longer be heard as the fire reached the
firmament. Whether the host driven mad by the fire set ablaze the forest, in a bid to scorch
all the roods on the trees, or the holocaust of the cave leapt from one tree to another, was
ever a mystery, but they themselves barely escaped from the flaming woods. So perished
in the cave of Cheleveshtniza one– hundred innocent souls.
When the people of Prevala saw me, thought they were seeing a ghost, for they
reckoned me amongst those inside the cave. Their eyes were red from crying, as if they
had been smoked by the fire. They had been watching the fire from Prevala. Grasping me
with joy they would ask:
–Is that you, father? Where have you been?
And I would answer:
–I was in the deep of the forest, then I had an epiphany. God himself spoke to me
and said: “ Go, give yourselves to the Turks and receive their faith. For it is all the same
whether you shall call me Allah or Jesus, as long as you have a god.”
An upheaval broke out, some tried to kill me, others warded them off. Then Momchil,
lying under a tree, strove to rise yet he stumbled on account of his broken leg, shouting
кръстовете по дърветата, или огънят пред пещерата прехвръквал от дърво на
дърво, не се разбрало, ала турците едва се измъкнали от пламналата гора. Тъй
загинали сто и петдесет невинни души в пещерата Челевещница.
Когато хората от Превала ме видяха да излизам от гората, помислиха, че
виждат призрак, защото ме знаеха в пещерата. И очите им още бяха червени от
плач, като че ли сами бяха опушени от огъня. Те бяха гледали пожара от Превала.
И като ме пипаха, радваха ми се и викаха:
— Ти ли си, отче? Къде беше?
И аз им казах:
— Бях вдън горите, та видях знамение. И сам бог ми каза: „Идете, предайте се
на турците и приемете тяхната вяра. Защото е все едно дали ми викат аллах, или
Исус. Само имайте бог.“
И се вдигна глъчка, и едни искаха да ме убият, а други ме бранеха. И Момчил,
който лежеше под едно дърво, рече да стане; ала се тръшна заради счупения си
крак и викаше с все сила:
— Дръпнете се да го устреля!
И когато хората се дръпнаха, видях го в дъното на улея от две човешки стени
да лежи на една страна. Опираше се на левия лакът . а в десницата си държеше
пищов. И хубав беше Момчил, като ангелотмъстител с огнени очи, хлътнали под
прави вежди — със стисната широка уста и с мършави бузи, хлътнали с две прави
черти върху лицето му. И двете жили на силния му врат тупаха, а от превръзката
на главата му капеше кръв.
И му рекох:
— Убий ме, ала пусни хората да слязат в селата. Всеки бог е бог на живите и
тия, които слизат в гроба, не славословят никой бог.
А двете му черни очи ме пронизаха, и черното око на пищова ме гледаше в
челото. После и трите очи се затвориха и Момчил удари пищова в земята, та
заплака. И викаше:
— Защо ме извади от Дупката? И после ми се молеше:
— Отче! Баща ми! Отче! Другите! Рекох му:
— Слава на Манол и другите, ала някои трябва да останат живи, за да
разправят за делата им и да тачат паметта им.
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with all his might:
– Step aside so I can shoot him myself.
And when the crowd separated, I saw him down the back of the alley leaning on his
side, shielded by the mass of two human figures. He was standing on his left leg, holding
the gun in the right hand. Handsome was Momchil, with fiery eyes like an archangel
avenger, embedded under straight eyebrows, his wide mouth shut tight, his cheeks
emaciated, squalid with two straight furrows on his face. Both tendons of his prominent
neck were vibrating, blood was dripping from the bandages around his head.
I said to him:
– Kill me but let the people go down to their villages. Every god is such to the ones
who live, those who descend to the grave, worship no one.
His black eyes transfixed me, that of his gun was looking straight at my forehead.
Then all three eyes closed, Momchil dropped the gun against the ground and burst into
tears. He kept muttering:
– Why did you take me out of the Hole?
Then he cried: What about my father, what about the others?
– Glory to Manol and the others, but at least some need to survive so they can give
witness of their deeds and keep their memory alive.
The crowds again surrounded me from both sides, some with open arms, others with
knives. The priest of Prosoyna saved me by shouting:
– Stop! How dare you to go against the will of God? This is a holy man.
And behind us, two priests, two hundred souls followed from the hill above Prevala,
and a hundred others bid us farewell among cries and curses. And brother was torn from
his brother, father from his son. I was leading the backsliders. Someone from Prevala took
a shot killing the last of the array. It was me he could not kill, for I walked ahead.
As we were swaying down the road, we kept staring at the ground. And my sight
galloped all over the straight fir trees, my back erect. I started walking upright just as a fir
tree. Then the people, as they saw that, cheered up for they reckoned that a man could
not walk towards ignominy with his head upright.
As I was gazing at the forest, I saw a cross carved on a tall tree in the middle of the
grove, a rood just like those in the holy woods of Cheleveshtniza. Then I stray off my path,
I stuck my lips to the cross as if trying to suck out the pitch from the bark, yet the people
И хората отново се нахвърлиха от двете ми страни, едните с отворени длани,
другите с ножове. Спаси ме попът на Просойна, като викаше:
— Стойте! Нима ще тръгнете против волята божия? Това е свят човек.
А виждах го, че трепере и иска да спаси клетия си живот.
И след нас, двамата попове, тръгнаха двеста души от стана над Превала, а
стотина ни изпратиха с плачове и клетви. И брат се делеше от брата, и син от
баща си. Аз водех отстъпниците. И един от Превала стреля, та уби последния от
редицата. Мене не можа да убие, защото вървях първи.
И като се люшкахме по пътя надолу, гледахме земята. И погледът ми тръгна
по правите борове, и духът ми тръгна след погледа ми, гърбът ми се изправи и
вече вървях изправен като бор. А хората, като видяха това, ободриха се, защото
си рекоха, че човек не може да върви към позор с изправено чело.
И като гледах боровете, на едно високо дърво пред поляната над Просойна
видях издълбан кръст, като кръстовете в свещената гора на Челевещница. И се
отбих от пътя, та залепих устни в кръста, все едно че смучех смолата на бора.
Ала хората ме разбраха и всеки мина и се прости с кръста, и майките подвигнаха
нагоре невръстните си деца.
Оттогава не съм целувал кръст.
Trinity Journal of Literary Translation
understood me and each one of them came and bid farewell to the cross, the mothers
lifted their children high above their heads.
Since that day, I have never kissed a cross.
Online: Aviva-No
Shimon Adaf
‫שֶ ׁל מִ י הַ ְזּמַ ן הַ ּזֶה‬
‫ צֹובֵר הַ ּק ֹר‬,‫ּכְמֹו מַ ּתָ כֹות‬
.‫ו ְהַ ּב ְָרקִ ים‬
,‫וְלָּמָ ה ׁשֶ אֶ חְ י ֶה אֹותֹו‬
‫מֻ ּנָח עַ ל הֶ חָ זֶה‬
‫ּכָל נִסְ יֹון מִ ּלּוט‬
.‫עֹורקִ ים‬
ְ ָ‫י ִקְ ַרע אֶ ת ַאב ה‬
)1 ,‫(ּדָ בָר‬
‫הָ י ָה לָּה לֵב ָּכבֵד מִ ן הָ אֹוקְ י ָנֹוס‬
‫לְאִ ּמִ י‬
.‫ו ְהּוא ׁשָ קַ ע‬
?‫אַ ּתֶ ם חָ שִ ׁים ּבָעֲ צָמֹות אֶ ת הַ מִ ּדְ ָבּר‬
‫ ּתְ קּועֹות‬,‫אֶ ת הַ סְ ּפִ ינֹות טְ בּועֹות‬
These poems are taken from the Israeli poet Shimon Adaf’s collection Aviva-No (2009).
Adaf is one of the most original voices in Israeli contemporary literature – both prose and
poetry. The poems here presented are taken out of his third and most recent volume of
poetry. For his first book of poems, Icarus’ Monologue (1997), Adaf won the Israeli Ministry
of Education Prize, and parts of it have been included in the Israeli high school literature
curriculum. He also wrote six books of prose fiction, one of which, titled Mox Nox, recently
won the prestigious Israeli Sapir Prize (2013).
Aviva-No is a powerful lamentation for Adaf’s sister, Aviva, who died at the young age of
43 and who played a very significant role in the construction of his identity as a writer. It’s
really an extraordinary volume – especially with regard to Adaf’s use of language; he is
able to blend together contemporary (at times almost colloquial) Hebrew with old biblical,
Talmudic and Rabbinic intertextualities in a truly remarkable way.
Trinity Journal of Literary Translation
Online: Aviva-No
Whose time is it
like metal, retaining cold
and lightning.
And why should I live it,
placed on the chest
any attempt to escape
will rupture the aorta.
(Object, 1)
She had a heart heavier than the ocean
my mother
and it sank.
Do you feel the desert in your bones?
The sunken ships, stuck
trans. Yael Segalovitz
‫ּבַחֹול ּכְמֹו ְצ ָלבִים‪ ,‬אֶ ת הַ ּבֹורֹות ֵריקִ ים‬
‫מִ ּכֹו ָכבִים‪ ,‬אֶ ת ּד ֹפֶ ק ּב ְַרד הַ מָ ּן‬
‫אַ ּתֶ ם זֹוכ ְִרים?‬
‫מָ ה הָ י ָה ּדְ ב ְָרָך‬
‫אֶ ל אֲ חֹותִ י‬
‫ּבַשֵ ּׁרּותִ ים‪ ,‬עַ ל‬
‫הָ ַאסְ לָה‬
‫עַ ד‬
‫ׁשֶ הֵ סֵ ּבָה ר ֹאׁש לַקִ ּיר‪.‬‬
‫הַ ּכֹבֶד ׁשֶ ל זְרֹועָ ּה‬
‫נִתֵ ּק מִ תְ לֵה‬
‫נִי ַר טּוָאלֶט‬
‫מִ מְ ּקֹומֹו‪,‬‬
‫שְ ׁתֵ ּי מַ ְגּבֹות ּפָ נִים‬
‫י ֻשְ ּׁרּו מַ ְר ְגּלֹותֶ יהָ ‪.‬‬
‫הַ ּתֹוחֵ ב חֲ רֹון אַ ּפֹו‬
‫לְעִ סְ קֵ יהֶ ם ׁשֶ ל ְּבנֵי ּתְ מּותָ ה‪,‬‬
‫ּבַשֶ ּׁקֶ ט הַ ּמַ חֲ ִריׁש שֶ ּׁלְָך‪ְ ,‬בּב ֹקֶ ר זֶה‬
‫שֶ ׁל חַ לְחָ לָה‪,‬‬
‫אֱ מ ֹר לִי ּגַם‬
‫אַ ּתָ ה –‬
‫הַ לְמּות חִ ּׁשּול הָ אֹור‬
‫שֶ ׁ ּי ְבַּתְ ֵרנִי ְלבַּסֹוף‬
‫מִ ֵלּדָ תִ י אֲ נִי ׁשֹומֵ עַ‬
‫מִ ָלּה מִ ָלּה ּגּופִ י מּושָ ׁר‬
‫הֹורס אֵ לָיו לָבֹוא‬
‫ּבְמֹו עֵ ינַי לְהִ תְ ו ַּדֵ עַ ‪.‬‬
Trinity Journal of Literary Translation
like crosses in the sand, the wells empty
of stars, the pulse of the manna hailing down
do you recall?
What were your words
to my sister
in the restroom, on the
she turned her head to the wall.
Her arms’ heft
ripped toilet paper
from its place,
two hand towels
were laid out at her feet.
He who sticks His blazing wrath
into mortal affairs,
with Your muted silence, in this morning
of unbearable pain,
tell me –
Clangs on the anvil of light
that will eventually bisect me
since my birth I hear
Word by word my body is sung
dares dangerously to enter
with my own eyes to know.
‫(ׁשִ ָ‬
‫ירה‪)2 ,‬‬
‫אֶ פְ ׁשָ ר לָׁשִ יר עַ ל ּגְשָ ׁמִ ים‪ּ ,‬גְבּורֹות‬
‫הַ ּמַ י ִם‪ּ ,‬כָל הַ ּׁשִ בְעָ ה ּכ ְִרסֵ י הָ עֲ נָנִים‬
‫חֻ ּכְכּו ְבּרְֹך חֻ ּפַ ת‬
‫הָ אֲ ֵבלִים‪ ,‬ו ְעַ ל הַ ּדַ ק מֵ הֶ ם אֶ פְ ׁשָ ר לָשִ ׁיר‪,‬‬
‫עַ כְשָ ׁו ּבְשַ ׁחַ ר ׁשְ בָט‪,‬‬
‫ּכָפֵ ר עַ ל דֶ שֶ ׁא אֲ פַ ְרּפַ ר‪ ,‬שָ ׁם יַלְדּותֵ ְך‪,‬‬
‫ו ְשָ ׁם חַ יַּיְך הַ מֵ ּתִ ים ּדְ חּוקִ ים‪:‬‬
‫קְ ו ֻּצֹותַ י ִך מְ לֵאֹות ׁשְ ב ִָרים‬
‫מִ ן הַ מִ ּקְ לַחַ ת‪ׁ ,‬שֶ הֶ עֱ ב ְַרתְ ּ ּבָן אֶ ת י ָדֵ ְך‬
‫ו ְֹלא סֵ ַרקְ תְ ּ‪ּ ,‬גַם ּכְׁשֶ הֵ עִ ירּו‪ ,‬חִ ּיּוְך עַ ל שִ ֹפְ תֹותַ י ְִך‪,‬‬
‫קָ ָראת ּבְאֹוסְ טֶ ן‪ ,‬חּוׁש הּומֹור מֻ שְ ׁחָ ז י ֵׁש‬
‫בגֵאֹוג ְַרפְ י ָה‪,‬‬
‫ַל ַ ּכ ְלּבָה הַ ּב ְִריטִ ית‪ִּ ,‬ב ְכלָל לָהֶ ם יֹושְ ׁבֵי הָ עֲ ָרפֶ ל‪ ,‬סִ ּכּום ְ ּ‬
‫ו ְסִ ּמּונֵי הַ הִ ׁשְ ּתָ אּות ׁשֶ ל הַ ָ‬
‫ּמֹורה‪ַ ,‬אדְ מּומִ יִּים עַ ל‬
‫הַ מַ ּּפֹות הַ מֻ עֲ תָ קֹות ׁשֶ ל הַ מִ ּדְ ּבָר‪ ,‬מֶ ְרחַ קִ ּים‬
‫ש ֹדֵ רֹות‪ ,‬קַ ּוֵי ַאסְ פַ לְט‬
‫ׁשֶ אַ ּתְ ָצלַחְ ּתְ ‪ ,‬קְ בּועִ ים ּבְתֹוְך ְ‬
‫מִ ּמֵ ְך אֶ ל ּתַ לְמִ ידַ י ְִך‪ ,‬סֻ גְיֹות עֹוכְרֹות שַ ׁ ְלו ָה‬
‫בגֵאֹומֶ טְ ְרי ָה‪.‬‬
‫הַ אִ ם שִ ׁעַ ְרתְ ּ שֶ ׁ ָכּל זֶה ְּכבָר הָ י ָה‬
‫ּבְטֶ ֶרם הִ תְ ו ַדַ ּעְ תְ ּ לֹו‪,‬‬
‫ּכִי הֶ עָ תִ יד אֵ ַרע ו ְהּוא נֹוׁשֵ ב‬
‫אֵ ַלי ְִך ַאתְ ּ‬
‫הָ עֲ מִ ידָ ה ַל ְזּמַ ן –‬
‫קֵ ץ הַ ּיָמִ ים הֵ קִ יץ‪ ,‬הַ אִ ם‬
‫ֹלא ּתִ ׁשְ מְ עִ י‪ְ ,‬בּתֹוְך מִ ְבצַר הָ אֲ ו ִִירים‪,‬‬
‫ּבֵין הַ טְ ּ ָללִים‪ ,‬הַ שְ ׁקֵ דִ ּיָה נ ְִרעֶ דֶ ת מִ פְ ִּריחָ ה‪ֹ ,‬לא‪,‬‬
‫הִ יא נ ְִרעֲ דָ ה‪,‬‬
Trinity Journal of Literary Translation
(Poetry, 2)
One can sing of rain, the mightiness
of water, all through the shiv’ah corpulent clouds
rubbed against the softness
of the mourners’ tent, and of the slightest of them one can sing,
now on February dawn,
kafir over the greyish lawn, there your childhood,
and there your fallen life is crammed:
Your locks are full of shards
from showering, through which you’ve run your fingers
and did not brush, even when they chided, a smile on your lips,
you read Austen, that British bitch has
a sharp sense of humor, as fog dwellers usually do, outline of geography,
and the teacher’s markings of amazement, reddish
upon the copied desert maps, distances
you’ve crossed, fixed within Sderot, asphalt lines
from you to your students, disquieting problems
of geometry.
Could you have guessed all this was
before you came to know it,
because the future has occurred and it is blowing
your way you
who are time resistant –
The end of time has wakened, will
you not hear, in the air’s fortress,
among the dewdrops, the almond tree quivers at its blossoms, no,
it has quivered,
‫ֹלא‪ ,‬הָ עֵ צִים הַ ּנִּטָ עִ ים יָבְׁשּו‪ָ ,‬כּלְתָ ה הַ ִצּמְ חִ יָּה אֲ ׁשֶ ר ּתִ צְמַ ח‪ ,‬הָ אֲ דָ מָ ה הֵ קִ יָאה‬
‫אֶ ת ִּלּבָּה‪ ,‬ו ְהּוא עֲ נָק‬
‫נֹוׁשֵ ם אֶ ת נִשְ ׁמָ תֵ ְך‪ ,‬הָ אֹור י ַָרד ְ ּכב ְַר ִז ִלּים‪,‬‬
‫הָ דּור ּכָל ּכְָך‪ ,‬מָ לֵא אֶ ת חֲ לָלֹו‬
‫הָ עֹולָם הֻ כ ְַרע ּכֻּלֹו אֶ ל מּול אֲ בִיבָה‪ֹ-‬לא‪.‬‬
‫ֹלאאאאאא‪ַ ,‬אל ּתַ ְרּפֶ ה ּכְאֵ ב‪ִ ,‬ל ִבּי‪ַ ,‬אל ּתַ עֲ מ ֹד מִ ּצַעַ ר‪,‬‬
‫דָ ּם לְהַ ט‪ְ ,‬רתַ ח‪ ,‬אַ ּוֵׁש‬
‫ּש ֹר‪ ,‬וְגַם אַ ּתֶ ם שְ ִׁר ִ‬
‫ו ְגּוף‪ּ ,‬בְעַ ר‪ּ ,‬בְעַ ר‪ ,‬הָ עֲ ַצּבִים הַ ּמִ שְ ֹתָ ְּרגִים לְא ֶֹרְך הַ ָב ָ‬
‫עֲ לּו ָבּאֵ ׁש‪ ,‬הָ עֲ צָמֹות הַ ּמִ תְ חַ ּכְכֹות ּבָאֵ יב ִָרים הַ ּפְ נִימִ יִּים‪,‬‬
‫דִ ּקְ רּו‪ָ ,‬ג ְּרדּו ָבּהֶ ם מְ עַ ט ו ְתַ עֲ לֶה מֻ ְרסָ ה‬
‫ּובַל אֶ שְ ַׁאל הֵ יכָן ִזכ ְָרּה‪ׁ ,‬שִ כְחָ תָ ּה אֵ י ָאן‬
‫ּבַל אֶ שְ ׁמ ֹט מִ ּבֵין י ָדַ י‬
‫ָאחֹות אֶ ל ּתֹוְך הַ ְזּמַ ן‪.‬‬
Trinity Journal of Literary Translation
no, the planted trees have dried out, the growing flora have expired, the earth has vomited
its heart, and it’s enormous
breathing your breath, light had descended like iron,
so refined, filled its space below
the whole world has broken so, facing Aviva-no.
Noooooo, pain, don’t let go, my heart, don’t cease in sorrow,
Blood, boil, flare, murmur
And body, burn, burn, the nerves winding through the flesh, and you too muscles,
catch fire, bones chafing the innards,
pinch, scratch them some, so that abscess will emerge
thus I shan’t ask where her memory is – what might it mime,
thus I shan’t let slip between my hands
a sister into time.
William Ernest Henley
Out of the night that covers me,
Black as the Pit from pole to pole,
I thank whatever gods may be
For my unconquerable soul.
In the fell clutch of circumstance
I have not winced nor cried aloud.
Under the bludgeonings of chance
My head is bloody, but unbowed.
Beyond this place of wrath and tears
Looms but the Horror of the shade,
And yet the menace of the years
Finds, and shall find, me unafraid.
It matters not how strait the gate,
How charged with punishments the scroll.
I am the master of my fate:
I am the captain of my soul. This is a translation from English into Irish.
In memory of Madiba, Nelson Mandela. (I gcuimhne ar Nelson Mandela. Ar dheis De go
raibh a anam uasal.)
Trinity Journal of Literary Translation
trans. Colm Mac Gearailt
As an ndorchadas a chlúdaíonn mé
Dubh mar an phluais ó mhuir go muir
Is chuig neamh a ghúiom, ar son Dé
Do m’anam do-bhuaite gan smior
Fiú is mé taghta le cor na héagóire
Ní os ard a scaoileas mo bhéic
Bruaite ag seans, le ceann sillte fola
Fós in arda a bhí sé, gan ‘ léig.
Agus fada ó áit-so na feirge
Gan romhaim ach súiomh-scáile na ndeor
Is má bheireann olcas na blianta orm
is gan eagla a bhead os a comhair
Is cuma cé chomh chruíonn an chosaíocht
Nó lucht na píonóise ar phár
Is mise captaen mo chroí-sa
Is máistir ar m’anam, táim air.
162 | Articles & Essays • Featured Translator: Johnson
Featured Translator: Nicholas Johnson
Nicholas Johnson is Assistant Professor of Drama at TCD and a performer, director,
and writer. He recently co-edited the special “performance issue” of the Journal of Beckett
Studies (23.1, 2014). His research appears in The Plays of Samuel Beckett (Methuen,
2013), Theatre Research International, Journal of Art Historiography and Forum Modernes Theater. He has translated/directed works by Ernst Toller (2008/2014), Franz Kafka
(2009), and Max Frisch (2010); as adaptor/director, recent projects include The Brothers
Karamazov (2014) and various works by Samuel Beckett. He is co-director of the Beckett
Summer School and artistic director of Painted Filly Theatre.
On Translating Ernst Toller’s Die Maschinenstürmer
The translation of drama intended for performance will always be judged on the first
hearing, rather than being carefully assessed by repeated reading. Because the mode of
reception for drama is as event, rather than as object, the translation of drama is inherently
different from prose or poetry, though both verse and prose might be contained within a
play (as with Ernst Toller’s Die Maschinenstürmer). While the reception of all literature
is both embodied and bounded in time, theatre is unique in that one must appear at a
particular place and time in order to experience it, and for most viewers (those who attend
only once) this is the sole opportunity for communication of the thought. A translator must
think not only about service to an author’s original concept and language, but also about
service to the present audience, with whom the implicit contract of a ticket has been
drawn up. Though an audience might later have access to a published script, “re-reading”
of drama is not immediately possible, so the validity of a translation in theatre should
partly be judged on how easily it can be received live. This means that all translation of
drama is also adaptation, since one must consider the cultural and intellectual context
in which the live event will appear, and alterations will frequently be required from the
original that would not seem justifiable in print, but seem required for the ephemeral event
to be legible in the local context.
Ernst Toller is a fascinating figure of world drama whose legacy has been complicated
— and ultimately unduly minimized — first by anti-Jewish sentiment in Germany of the
mid-1930s, then by anti-German sentiment in the US and UK of the late 1930s, and finally
by anti-Communist sentiment in the Anglophone world after World War II. Born in 1893
in Samotschin, at that time in the province of Posen but today in Poland, Toller fought for
Trinity Journal of Literary Translation
the German Empire at the front lines of World War I for thirteen months. Radicalized by
his experience and observations in the war, he co-organized and then was briefly head
of state of the Bavarian Soviet Republic in Munich. He began to write seriously when
imprisoned for five years for his role in that revolution, and Die Maschinenstürmer was
his third play completed in Niederschönenfeld prison. On his release, he sought refuge
from an increasingly threatening German state by going first to London and then to New
York, to seek a living in the theatre. Having failed to do so, when he heard in 1939 that
his mother and sister had been taken to the concentration camps, he committed suicide
in the Mayflower Hotel in New York City. Usually classified as a German Expressionist
because of his early works Die Wandlung (1919) and Masse Mensch (1920), Toller also
produced remarkable poetry (most famously Das Schwalbenbuch, 1922-23) and a notable
autobiography (Eine Jugend in Deutschland, 1933). An edition of his plays in English was
published during his lifetime as Seven Plays, and there are still occasional productions
of the original English translation by Ashley Dukes entitled The Machine-Wreckers, most
notably one directed by Katie Mitchell at the National Theatre in London in 1995.
In 2008, working first with Masse Mensch, I began a long-term project to translate
the dramatic works of Ernst Toller into playable versions that could be received and
understood by contemporary audiences. The necessary precondition for such a project,
and one reason for its lengthy time scale, is the opportunity to produce the drafts with
live actors before finalizing a printed text. For me, much value of a dramatic translation
rests on the question of whether it has actually been staged, and many of the published
translations of Toller were not originally created for that purpose and are no longer suited
to it. Toller’s overshadowed legacy has partly also been the victim of intensely poetic and
literary translations from England of the 1920s and 30s which are easily passed over as
“dated” or “polemic” or simply “non-dramatic.” That the author went out of copyright in 2009
makes the task immensely easier, since the freedom to alter the text more substantially
for performance makes fidelity to the present audience easier. The goal for me is to create
a “living thought” out of these plays, so that audiences can access both the radical politics
and radical philosophy put forward in Toller’s writing, and then dialectically reflect on the
significance of this offering themselves.
The 2008 project on Masse Mensch was developed first with a large ensemble of
students at Trinity College, and was then toured in a bilingual workshop version to one
of Europe’s major theatres (and an institution that knows Toller well), the Volksbühne
am Rosa-Luxembourg-Platz in Berlin. Knowing that a similar opportunity to direct an
ensemble production with second-year drama students at the Samuel Beckett Theatre
in Dublin was arising in 2014, since mid-2013 I have been developing the translation of
164 | Articles & Essays • Featured Translator: Johnson
Die Maschinenstürmer. The translation printed below this short essay is the prologue to
the play, taken from the second stage (or “faithful version”) of the draft translations that I
have developed. Reflecting on these two projects, it is possible to generalize an optimal
approach for dramatic translation. My process of creating a complete and publishable
translation of The Machinewreckers will take five steps, creating five main drafts:
1. The transcribed German, which has the translator as an audience. The
transcription process forces close reading in the original language and creates
a document with good formatting, lineation, and spacing for the rehearsal script.
2. The “faithful” English, which has actors and designers as an audience. This draft
seeks to communicate Toller’s intent with a particular line, and is what is printed
in this journal. Much literary translation would stop at this point.
3. The “rehearsal adaptation,” produced by the director/playwright in collaboration
with actors and dramaturgy staff. This draft reflects more aggressive changes
and cuts that consider cultural context and the constraint of time. Adjustments
made at this point help the actors to play lines and the audience to understand
them, and this script is taken into rehearsal.
4. The “run draft” or adaptation version post-rehearsal, produced as an accurate
depiction of what was actually said or done on stage, more of a recording of what
transpired than the more aspirational adaptation.
5. The “playable translation,” in which the information gained through rehearsal and
performance process is fed back into the “faithful” translation, to determine which
lines have migrated based on rehearsal and performance, and which cases of
this were meaningful, as opposed to accidental or culturally too specific.
There are a few emblematic moments of what follows that explain how this process
produces new information. First, in the stage directions that precede the Lord Chancellor’s
first line, Toller suggests that he is at a “Pult,” which would be a sort of lectern common
to the Reichstag or another Parliamentary body. An audience in the UK or Ireland that
is familiar with the House of Lords, however, will know that the Lord Chancellor sits on
the traditional “woolsack,” and if producing the play in these islands with England still
as its location, this has special resonance with the content of the play, which concerns
the Luddite uprising of the Nottingham weavers circa 1815. This resonance is missed
in the original German, but the choice to use “woolsack” was made by both the original
translator and by me. Though it is in the stage directions and may not seem important to
audience reception, in fact it is vital for the set designer to consider.
Trinity Journal of Literary Translation
The second choice that marks my approach is how to handle Toller’s verse.
Frequently I have selected alliteration and nested consonant endings over any sense
of ending rhyme, and while I have been sensitive to meter, I have not been strict. I have
also honoured Toller’s original repetitions in the way that the earlier translators of this
have not. If the texture of the verse that prompted Ashley Dukes’s original translation, first
published by Ernest Benn in 1923 and then anthologized in Seven Plays in 1935, was
romantic poetry, the “deep source” for me has been Allen Ginsberg’s Howl, particularly
the “Moloch” section whose subject integrates well with the topic of this play. A three-part
example of one of these repetitions at the opening of the Prologue should reveal the
difference in approach.
Toller’s original German:
Sie kennen alle, meine Lords, die Taten der Zerstörung.
Die Arbeitsmänner haben sich verbündet,
Gewalt gebraucht, Revolten angezettelt.
Wer aber lehrte sie ein solches Tun?
Wer untergrub das Wohl des Landes? —
Die Politik der »großen Männer«!
Die Politik der Räuberkriege!
Die Politik der großen Helden,
Von denen Ihre Bücher zeugen,
Die Politik, die Fluch ward für das lebende Geschlecht!—
Ashley Dukes’s 1923 translation, revised and reprinted 1935:
All of you know, my lords, why we are met.
The working weavers are confederate
Against their masters; they have used duress
And plan destruction. But whose policy
Taught them the trade of havoc, whose the hand
That undermined the welfare of the realm?
It was the policy of the robber wars,
The myth of heroes from your history books,
That grew to be the curse of living men!
166 | Articles & Essays • Featured Translator: Johnson
My own 2013-14 translation:
You all know, my Lords, the deeds of the destroyers.
The workingmen have joined forces
To wield violence and instigate rebellion.
Who taught them how to do this?
Who undermined the welfare of the land? —
The politics of the great men!
The politics of the robber wars!
The politics of great heroes told of in your books,
The politics that cursed all living souls!—
This should reveal how the quest of this stage of translation is to offer maximal
information to actors and designers about what Toller originally wrote while preserving his
own punchy Telegrammstil, and then allow the scene to develop in rehearsal to find out
how “playable” it is. Readers of this stage of the translation who attend the production of
Machinewreckers may be surprised how differently this section of text will be handled in
its on-stage rendition by the whole ensemble.
Trinity Journal of Literary Translation
Davies, Cecil. The Plays of Ernst Toller: A Revaluation. Amsterdam: Harwood Academic
Publishers, 1996.
Toller, Ernst. I Was a German: The Autobiography of Ernst Toller. Trans. Edward Crankshaw. New York: William Morrow and Company, 1934.
———. The Machine-Wreckers: A Drama of the English Luddites in a Prologue and Five
Acts. Trans. Ashley Dukes. In Seven Plays. Frome and London: Butler and Tanner,
———. Die Maschinenstürmer. In Gesammelte Werke 2: Dramen und Gedichte aus dem
Gefängnis, 1918-1924. 3rd Edition. Eds. Wolfgang Frühwald and John M. Spalek.
München/Wien: Carl Hanser Verlag, 1995.
168 | Articles & Essays • Featured Translator: Johnson
Ernst Toller
Westminsterpalast. Sitzungssaal des englischen Oberhauses. Das Vorspiel kann mit
einfachen Mitteln vor dem Vorhang dargestellt werden. In der Mitte ein Pult, an dem der
Lordkanzler sitzt. Rechts und links Stühle für LORD BYRON und LORD CASTLEREAGH.
In der ersten Reihe des Zuschauerraums andere Lords. Der Darsteller JIMMYS könnte
in LORD BYRONS Maske auftreten, der Darsteller URES in der Maske des LORD
Bill der Regierung: Zum Tode verurteilt, wer übt Zerstörung der Maschinen. Die Bill mit
großer Mehrheit in erster Lesung angenommen. Wir treten in die zweite und die dritte
Lesung ein. Lord Byron hat das Wort.
Sie kennen alle, meine Lords, die Taten der Zerstörung.
Die Arbeitsmänner haben sich verbündet,
Gewalt gebraucht, Revolten angezettelt.
Wer aber lehrte sie ein solches Tun?
Wer untergrub das Wohl des Landes? —
Die Politik der »großen Männer«!
Die Politik der Räuberkriege!
Die Politik der großen Helden,
Von denen Ihre Bücher zeugen,
Die Politik, die Fluch ward für das lebende Geschlecht!—
O, können Sie sich wundern, meine Lords,
Wenn in den Zeiten, da Betrug und Wucher, Diebstahl, Gier
Wie ekler Schimmel unsere hohen Klassen angepelzt,
Das Werkvolk angesichts des ungeheuerlichen Elends
Die Bürgerpflicht vergißt und sich mit Schuld belädt?
Vergleichbar nur mit jener Schuld, die Abgeordnete
In Parlamenten Tag um Tag begehen.
Was aber ist der Unterschied?
Der hochgestellte Missetäter kennt die Mittel,
Um zu durchschlüpfen Maschen des Gesetzes.
Der Arbeiter allein büßt für Vergehen,
Trinity Journal of Literary Translation
trans. Nicholas Johnson
Westminster Palace. Chamber of the English House of Lords. The prologue can be played
in simple fashion in front of the curtain. In the middle the woolsack, on which the LORD
CHANCELLOR sits. Right and left, chairs for LORD BYRON and LORD CASTLEREAGH.
In the first row of the gallery, the OTHER LORDS. The actor playing JIMMY can perform
in LORD BYRON’S costume, while the actor playing URE is in the costume of LORD
A Government Bill: To sentence to death those who destroy the machines. The bill
was adopted by a large majority at first reading. We take up the second and third
readings today. The house recognizes Lord Byron.
You all know, my Lords, the deeds of the destroyers.
The workingmen have joined forces
To wield violence and instigate rebellion.
Who taught them how to do this?
Who undermined the welfare of the land? —
The politics of the great men!
The politics of the robber wars!
The politics of great heroes told of in your books,
The politics that cursed all living souls!—
How can you wonder, my Lords,
When in these times of embezzlement and extortion,
Theft and greed, what a gross mold begins to flower
Watered by our higher classes?
The masses in their monstrous misery
Forget their civic duty, and then we call them guilty.
But if we compare their guilt with what we do
Day after day in Parliament — what is the difference?
The higher-ranking wrongdoers have the means
To slip through the loopholes in the laws.
The worker alone atones for our trespasses
That take away his daily bread.
170 | Articles & Essays • Featured Translator: Johnson
In die ihn Hunger, Hunger trieb.
Maschinen stahlen ihm die Arbeitsplätze,
Maschinen drängten ihn in Not,
In seinem Herzen schrie Empörung:
Natur will, daß wir alle leben!
Natur will nicht, daß einige sich Gold erraffen,
Die anderen aber hungern!
Der Arbeiter, er war bereit,
Die brachen Länder zu bebauen,
Allein der Spaten war nicht sein!
Er bettelte. Wer stand in England auf
Und sprach: Wir lindern deine Not! —
Verzweiflung trieb ihn in den Abgrund blinder Leidenschaften.
Sie nennen diese Leute Pöbel, meine Lords,
Und rufen: Man schlag’ dem Ungeheuer seine Köpfe ab,
Man hänge alle Führer auf! —
Wo Milde not tut, lechzt der Staat nach Blut.
Noch immer war das Schwert das dümmste Mittel!
Betrachten wir den Pöbel, meine Lords.
Es ist der Pöbel, der in Ihren Feldern Arbeit leistet,
Es ist der Pöbel, der in Ihren Küchen dient,
Es ist der Pöbel, der den Schiffen und Armeen Soldaten stellt,
Es ist der starke Arm, der Sie instand setzt,
Einer Welt von Feinden Trotz zu bieten —
Und der auch Ihnen trotzen wird,
Wenn Sie ihn in den Sackweg der Verzweiflung peitschen!
Und eins noch lassen Sie mich sagen:
Für Kriege war Ihr Beutel immer weit geöffnet.
Ein Teil des Geldes, das Sie,
Als sich Portugal in Kriegsnot fand,
Dem fremden Land zum Kriege führen »menschenfreundlich« überließen ...
Ein Teil des Geldes hätt’ genügt,
Die Not daheim zu lindern,
Uns zu befreien von Barmherzigkeit der Galgen.
Ich sah im Türkenland die größten Despotien.
Doch nirgends solches Elend wie in jenem England,
Das sich christlich nennt. —
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Machines stole his place of work,
Machines drove him into destitution,
But in his heart still cries the outrage:
Nature wants us all to live!
Nature wants not, that some will snatch the gold,
While others starve! The worker was ready
To farm the barren lands,
Except the spade was not his own!
He begged. Who stood up in England and said,
We will help you in your hardship!
Despair drove him to the abyss of blind passions.
You call these people “rabble,” my Lords, and cry,
Cut off this Hydra’s head, and hang the leaders! —
They hunger for mercy, but the State thirsts for blood.
Still the sword is the simplest means!
Let us look upon the rabble, noble lords.
It is the rabble that works in your fields,
It is the rabble that serves in your kitchens,
It is the rabble that mans the ships and armies,
It is the strong arm that keeps you in your place
That stands up to a world of enemies,
That would also defy you, if you whip him to despair!
And once again let me say:
For wars your purse was ever open.
One part of the gold you gave to Portugal in her need,
To foreign wars you called “humanitarian,”
One part of that gold would have been enough
To mollify the misery here at home,
To mitigate the mercy of the gallows.
In Turkey I saw the great despotic rulers,
But never such misery among the people
As in this England you call “Christian.”
And what medicine do you prescribe? Death!
The cure of all great charlatans
Who rummage in the body of the state!
Is there not enough blood already on our laws?
Should blood be spilled for so long
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Und wie heißt Ihre Medizin? Die Todesstrafe!
Das Kräutlein all der großen Scharlatane,
Die wühlen in dem Leib der Staaten.
Klebt nicht genug des Blutes an Gesetzen?
Soll Blut solange vergossen werden,
Bis es zum Himmel schreit und Zeugnis ablegt wider Sie?
Ist Todesstrafe Medizin für Hunger und Verzweiflung?
Gesetzt den Fall, Sie nehmen, meine Lords,
Die Todesstrafe an. Betrachten Sie den Mann,
Den Ihre Bill dem Richter überliefert.
Vom Hunger ausgemergelt, durch Verzweiflung stumpf,
Verachtet er das Leben, — das nach Ihrer Schätzung weniger wert
Denn eine Strumpfmaschine ist. Betrachten Sie den Mann!
Entrissen seiner Frau, entrissen seinen Kindern,
Denen er kein Brot verschaffen konnte (und wollt’ es doch so gerne!),
Vor ein Gericht geschleppt — wer wird das Todesurteil fällen?
Zwölf Ehrenmänner? . . . Niemals!
Bestellen Sie zwölf Schlächter als Geschworene,
Und einen Henker, meine Lords, bestellen Sie zum Präsidenten des Gerichts!
Während der Rede hat sich bei den Lords ironisches Gelächter erhoben. Huzza-Rufe.
Lord Castlereagh hat das Wort.
Sie hörten, meine Lords,
Die Rede dieses erhenwerten Gentleman.
Er sprach wie ein Poet, nicht wie ein Staatsmann.
Poeten können Dramen schreiben, Verse dichten,
Doch Politik ist Handwerk harter Männer.
Sich des Gesindels anzunehmen, mag man gelten lassen
Als poetische Marotte. Dem Staatsmann gilt allein Prinzip der Wirtschaft.
Die Armut ist ein gottgewolltes, ewiges Gesetz.
Mitleidsgefühle sind im Parlamente nicht am Platz.
Der Pfarrer Malthus wies uns nach, daß Hunderttausende Zu viel in England leben.
Natur versagt
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Until heaven cries and witnesses against you?
Is death your cure for hunger and despair?
Suppose this death penalty is made the law.
Look on the man that your bill hands over to be judged.
Gaunt with hunger, dull with despair, scorning life
That after your appraisal is worth even less
Than the loom on which he weaves. Look at the man!
Torn from his wife, torn from his children,
For whom he can’t find any bread,
And not from lack of wanting!
Bring him before the court — who will pass the sentence?
Twelve honourable jurors? Never!
Swear in twelve butchers, my lords.
And make the hangman the presiding judge.
During the speech, ironic laughter has arisen among the Lords. Calls of “Huzzah!”
The chair recognizes Lord Castlereagh.
You have heard, my Lords,
The speech of this worthy Gentleman.
He spoke like a poet, not like a statesman.
Poets can write dramas, compose verses,
But politics is the work of harder men.
A poet may dabble
with the cause of the rabble,
But it takes an M.P.
To keep the capital free!
Cries of “Hear Hear” from the LORDS on CASTLEREAGH’s side, groans from LORD
Poverty is an eternal law, the will of God.
Pity does not have a place in Parliament.
The reverend Malthus has verified
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Den Hunderttausenden die Nahrung. Wir sehen Grausamkeiten...
Es sind die Waffen Gottes, vor denen wir
In Ehrfurcht stumm uns neigen müssen.
In jedem Jahre richten Kriege, Elend, Laster
Die überschüssige Bevölkerung zugrunde.
Sollen wir das göttliche Naturgesetz bekämpfen?
Das heiße handeln wider die Moral!
Wir müssen das Gesetz erkennen
Und ihm mit allen Kräften Hilfe leihen.
Die Armen unterstützen heißt: zum Zeugen sie ermuntern!
Das arme Volk in England darf sich nicht vermehren!
Und jeder Weg ist recht, der diesem Ziele dient —
Sofern er sittlich und im Einklang ist mit dem Gebot der Kirche.
(zwischenruf) LORD BYRON
Die Kinder verhungern lassen!
Ich achte Ihre große Geste, ehrenwerter Lord.
Als Staatsmann muß ich kühl erwidern:
Je mehr der Tod die Kinderscharen lichtet,
Je größer ist das Glück der künftigen Geschlechter.
Wir haben zuviel Menschen, hochgeschätzter Dichter.
Das herzlichste Gefühl
Kann diesen erznen Satz nicht wanken machen.
Wendet sich an die anderen Lords.
Vor allem bitte ich die ehrenwerten Lords
An eins zu denken: Das Wohl des Königreichs
Steht auf dem Spiel! Verschwörung wider Ruh’ und Ordnung ward entdeckt!
Die Bill ist ein Tribut dem Altar der Gerechtigkeit!
Dem Dichter sind Gefühle wohl erlaubt,
Dem Staatsmann ward gegeben rechnender Verstand.
Bravorufe der Lords.
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That hundreds of thousands too many live in England.
Nature fails to provide these masses nourishment.
We see cruelty, but this is God’s weapon
Before whose power we must submit in awe.
In every year wars, woes, and burdens
Reduce our surplus population.
Should we struggle against holy nature’s laws?
That would be immoral!
We must recognize within our laws
Our chance to lend him help with all our might.
To help the poor is to encourage them to breed!
But in England they must not be allowed to multiply!
And every means is justified that serves to this end —
As long as it accords to moral harmony and the Church.
(interjecting) LORD BYRON
Let the children starve!
I understand your great gesture, noble Lord.
But as a statesman I must answer coolly:
The more Death thins the hordes of children
The better the lives of coming generations.
We have too many people, most honourable Poet.
Heartfelt feelings cannot soften this iron sentence.
Turning to the other LORDS.
Before all else I beg you, honoured Lords,
To think on one thing: the well-being of the realm
Is at stake! Conspiracies against peace and order
Have been discovered! This bill is our tribute
At the altar of justice!
Poets may feel, but statesmen must think.
Cries of “Bravo” and “Hear Hear” from the LORDS.
176 | Articles & Essays • Featured Translator: Johnson
Erschöpft die Rednerliste. Debatte ist geschlossen. Wir stimmen ab. Wer von den
ehrenwerten Lords gibt seine Stimme für die Bill?
Alle Lords außer Lord Byron erheben sich.
Die Gegenprobe, bitte.
Lord Byron erhebt sich. Gelächter.
Ich zähle eine Stimme. Die Bill ist angenommen. Die Sitzung wird vertagt auf morgen.
Die Bühne verdunkelt sich.
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List of speakers is ended. Debate is closed. We move to votes. Who among the
honourable Lords is in favour of the Bill?
Those against, please.
LORD BYRON rises. Laughter.
I count one vote. The bill is adopted. The meeting is adjourned until tomorrow.
The stage darkens.
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A Yiddish / Hiberno-English Dictionary
by Sam Slote
Gey kakken oyf in yam (literally, ‘Go shit in the ocean’) – Feck off
Gonif – Cute (‘crook’)
Klutz – Eejit ( ‘a clumsy person’)
Mazik – Chisler (‘a swift or mischievous child’)
Mensch – Legend or Gobshite (one of few terms of endearment in Yiddish; mostly used
in an ironic sense).
Menuval – Gobshite (‘a disgusting person’)
Meshuggeneh – Eejit (from the adjective meshugge, ‘crazy’)
Momzer – Gobshite (literally, ‘a bastard’; figuratively, ‘an untrustworthy person’)
Moyshe Pupik – Eejit (literally, ‘Moses bellybutton’; figuratively, ‘a jerk’)
Nebech (in American Yiddish, Nebbish) – Eejit (‘To define a nebech simply as an unlucky
man is to miss the many nuances, from pity to contempt, the word
affords’, Rosten, p. 261)
Nishtgutnik (in American Yiddish, No-goodnik) – Dosser (the opposite of alrightnik)
Noodge – Gobshite (from the verb nudzh, ‘to bore’)
Nudnik – Eejit (literally, ‘a pest’)
Paskudnyak – Feckin’ Gobshite (‘nasty, odious, contemptible’; ‘one of the most greasily
graphic’ words in Yiddish, Rosten, p. 282)
Putz – Gobshite (literally, ‘penis’, although rarely used in the literal sense. In 1998 thensenator Al D’Amato was roundly excoriated for calling his opponent
Chuck Schumer a ‘putz’)
Schlemazel – Eejit ( ‘un unlucky person’; possibly the English slang word shemozzle –
‘an uproar, confusion’ – is derivative)
I am indebted to Leo Rosten’s literally indispensible The Joys of Yiddish, New York:
McGraw Hill, 1968.
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Schlemiel – Eejit (‘an unlucky person’; the most generic Yiddish insult. ‘The schlemiel
trips and knocks down the shlemazel; and the nebech repairs the
schlemazel’s glasses’, Rosten, p. 345)
Schlepp (in American Yiddish, Schlepper) – Eejit (‘a clumsy person’; from the German,
schleppen, ‘to drag’)
Schlub – Eejit ( ‘an ill-mannered person’; as in the wonderful expression, ‘He acts like a
schlub, that schlub’, Rosten, p. 451)
Schmegegge – Eejit (‘I think of schmegegge as a cross between a schlemazel and a
schlemiel – or even between a nudnik and a nebech’, Rosten, p. 354.
Yiddish is all about nuance.)
Schmendrick – Ballbag (‘a kind of schlemiel – but weak and thin’, Rosten, p. 354; also
has the sense of ‘penis’, and when used by women the intent is to
deride by diminutising.)
Schmo – Eejit (American Yiddish euphemism for schmuck, but less insulting)
Schmuck – Feckin’ Gobshite (literally, ‘penis’; ‘Never utter schmuck lightly, or in the
presence of women and children’, Rosten, p. 356. From the German
Schmuck, ‘jewelry’; applied to the male genitalia in an analogous
manner to the expression ‘the family jewels’)
Schnook – Eejit (American Yiddish euphemism for schmuck, but less insulting; as in the
Dublin rhyming slang for the statue of Oliver Goldsmith at Trinity’s front
gate, ‘The schnook with the book’.)
Schnorrer – Gobshite (‘an impudent indigent’; ‘The schnorrer was not a run-of-themill mendicant. […] He did nor so much ask for alms as claim them’,
Rosten, p. 360)
Tipesh – Eejit (‘an idiot’; from the Hebrew)
Vantz – Eejit (literally, ‘bedbug’)
Yold – Culchie
Yutz – Eejit (‘a foolish or useless person’)
Articles & Essays
Online: Dialect to dialect translation: Belli, Burgess, Garioch
by Jim Clarke
Language, like people, evolves in response to geographic location. In nations like
Ireland, Britain and Italy, dialectal language forms have thrived and continue to survive,
despite the homogenising influence of mass media. And just as poetry is, as Edgar Allan
Poe held, “the rhythmical creation of beauty in words”, so those words may evade the
tyranny of formal established language forms and adopt the dialectal variants of demotic
Giuseppe Gioachino Belli was a Nineteenth century poet who composed nearly
2,300 sonnets entirely in his native Romanesco dialect, the language of the streets of
Trastevere in Rome where he resided. Inspired by the Milanese sonneteering of Carlo
Porta and others, he dedicated his literary life to capturing the essence of Roman life
in his poems. While some were avowedly anti-clerical, and aimed at the Vatican and
its inhabitants, many more depicted street life and the condition of the poor, of whom
he was intermittently one. He often adapted Biblical themes to his Romanesco tongue,
demonstrating the counter-intuitive universality of the local. Belli’s sonnets almost
invariably follow a rigid, but simple rhyme scheme. They tend to feature two quatrains and
two tercets, in which the rhyme scheme follows ABBA ABBA CDC DCD, with occasional
variation in the quatrains to ABAB ABAB.
Belli explained his work by stating that he wished to leave a monument to the Roman
plebe, the poor demotic underclass oppressed by church and state. In turn, Rome has
dedicated a monument to him, which can be found, top-hatted and thoughtful, looking
down upon the eponymous Piazza G.G. Belli at the Trastevere end of the Ponte Garibaldi.
Constrained by the conditions of his employment, only one of his scurrilous and witty
sonnets was published during his lifetime, and like Kafka he asked that his papers be
destroyed after his death. Fortunately, they were preserved and the first collection was
published some two decades after he died, with a full collection only emerging in 1952.
Belli’s work has inspired and delighted generations of readers. Gogol laughed aloud
at them, D.H Lawrence wanted to translate them, and William Carlos Williams adored
them. For Pier Paolo Pasolini, Belli was the greatest of Italian poets. There have been
many attempts to render them into English, including admirable selections by Eleanor
Clark, Harold Norse, Miller Williams, Peter Nicholas Dale (who has supposedly translated
all of Belli’s sonnets into ‘Strine’, the dialect of 1960s Australia) and Mike Stocks. Most
interesting, however, are the attempts to transpose the pungent and authentic sense
of place in Belli’s work to other geographical locales and locutions. Writing on behalf of
the eternal city, Belli sought to render its people universal, and I suspect he may have
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most appreciated those poets who have attempted to place his words in the mouths and
accents of other demotic, dialectal peoples.
What follows below are some examples of Belli’s sonnets, accompanied by such
dialectal translations, including my own attempts to capture something of the vibrancy
of his Nineteenth century Rome in the unique form of Hiberno-English found in Belfast.
La bona famija
Mi’ nonna, a un’or de notte che viè ttata
Se leva da filà, povera vecchia,
Attizza un carboncello, ciapparecchia,
E maggnamo du’ fronne d’inzalata.
Quarche vorta se famo una frittata,
Che ssi la metti ar lume ce se specchia
Come fussi a ttraverzo d’un’orecchia:
Quattro noce, e la cena è terminata.
Poi ner mentre ch’io, tata e Crementina
Seguitamo un par d’ora de sgoccetto,
Lei sparecchia e arissetta la cucina.
E appena visto er fonno ar bucaletto,
‘Na pisciatina, ‘na sarvereggina,
E, in zanta pace, ce n’annamo a letto.
Written on 28th November 1831, this poem is typical of Belli’s exquisite ability to generate
miniature pen pictures of the poverty of the Roman underclass. He does not shy away
from depicting the deprivation, yet humour and warmth pervade. It transposes well to the
Scots setting created by Robert Garioch:
The Guid Family (Robert Garioch)
Faither wins hame, my grannie leaves her wheel,
puir sowl, gies owre her spinning for the nicht;
she lays the buird, blaws her wee coal alicht
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and we sit-in to sup our puckle kail.
We mak oursels an omelet, aince in a while,
gey thin, sae’s ye can fairly see the licht
throu it, jist like it wes a lug; aa richt,
we chaw a puckle nuts, and that’s our meal.
While Faither and mysel and Clementine
bide on, she clears the buird, gaes aff and redds
the kitchie, and we drink a drappie wine.
The wee carafe timmit doun til the dregs,
a wee strone, a hailmary said, and syne,
lither and loan, we sclimm intill our beds.
Garioch was strongly influenced by the great Scots poet Hugh Mac Diarmuid, and was
a close associate of Sorley Maclean. His Scots poetry is, for the non-native, occasionally
intimidating, replete as it is with dialectal terms and constructions which can sometimes
be difficult to penetrate. However in this instance, as with many of his Belli translations
(his Roman Sonnets frae Giuseppe Belli contains about 120) the Scots formulation adds
wonderful colour and identity and is easily comprehended.
A common misunderstanding, arising from the lengthy and close shared history
between Scotland and the North of Ireland, is that the Northern Irish dialect contains
a substantial, even dominant, Scots lexis. This has even been enshrined in legislation,
with the formal adoption and recognition of Lallans, under the name “Ulster-Scots”, as a
legal indigenous tongue. However, the vast majority, estimated at up to 97%, of Northern
Ireland’s inhabitants speak a form of Hiberno- rather than Scots-English, the dialect
known as Mid-Ulster Hiberno-English, whose cultural richness generally goes tragically
unloved and unfunded. This dialect, colloquially known as ‘Norn Iron’, has sadly received
more attention from comic writers like John Pepper than it has from linguists or poets. By
way of highlighting the significant distinction between Scots and this genuinely indigenous
Ulster dialect, I offer my own translation of this sonnet below:
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The Good Fambly
When the oul lad comes home late, my wee nan
drops the clothes she’s stitchin, poor oul sinner,
pokes a drap o’ coal to fire it up
And makes us a wee salad for the dinner.
Sometimes she fries an omelette in the pan
an if ye held it up until the light
it shines right through just like it would yer ear.
Supper’s over in a few wee bites.
Then me, the oul lad and my big sister
sup cans a’ stout or half-uns for an hour
While nanny’s in the kitchen, cleanin up.
Until ye reach the bottom of yer jar
then a quick pish, or say yer prayers instead
And peacefully head up thon stairs til bed.
Unlike Garioch, I was not able to reproduce Belli’s famous ABBA ABBA rhyme
sequence, which gave Anthony Burgess the title for his novella about a putative encounter
between Belli and John Keats in Rome during Keats’s dying months. In a deviation from
Belli, I also thought it more apt to have my Belfast good family drink indigenous stout
and whiskey rather than the somewhat displaced carafe of wine which Garioch faithfully
transposed from Belli’s original sonnet. Equally, where Garioch fails to translate the age
component of Belli’s “povera vecchia”, I followed the lead of Paul Howard, who translated
this sonnet into his native Yorkshire dialect as The Good Life. Howard glosses “Mi gram”
as “poor owd pet”, which seems better to capture the warm familial intent of Belli’s phrase
than Garioch’s slightly condescending “puir sowl”. Similarly, where Garioch’s fidelity to
Belli’s Crementina seems somewhat exotic in a Scots setting, Howard renames her as
“mi sister Grace” which seems more fitting even though it moves further away from the
Many of Belli’s poems render scenes from the Bible into his contemporary Roman
dialect in a manner that likely would have found even greater disfavour with the Vatican
than his excoriating sonnets about popes and cardinals. One of his most popular, and one
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that has been translated persistently, is his depiction of the day of judgement:
Er giorno der giudizzio
Quattro angioloni co le tromme in bocca
Se metteranno uno pe cantone
A ssonà: poi co ttanto de vocione
Cominceranno a dì: “Fora a chi ttocca”
Allora vierà su una filastrocca
De schertri da la terra a ppecorone,
Pe ripijà ffigura de perzone
Come purcini attorno de la biocca.
E sta biocca sarà Dio benedetto,
Che ne farà du’ parte, bianca, e nera:
Una pe annà in cantina, una sur tetto.
All’urtimo uscirà ‘na sonajera
D’angioli, e, come si ss’annassi a letto,
Smorzeranno li lumi, e bona sera.
This sonnet aptly closes Anthony Burgess’s novella ABBA ABBA, a clever and
entertaining evocation of Belli’s Trastevere in which the poet encounters the dying John
Keats. The novella arose out of Burgess’s own obsession with translating Belli’s poetry
in the mid-1970s, when he was a resident of Trastevere himself. In his previous novel,
Beard’s Roman Women, Burgess’s pseudo-autobiographical protagonist considers
dedicating his life to translating Belli’s works, but is relieved by a busker who is similarly
obsessed with the task. With dozens of sonnets translated, Burgess, who never let good
work go to waste, repurposed them as an appendix to a novella in which he “presented
John Keats dying in Rome after the realisation that there was a new style to develop,
closer to the scabrous realism of the Roman dialect poet Belli than to a romanticism
he had already outgrown.” The culture clash, as much poetic as national, between Belli
and Keats is fascinating, though tragically fictional (Joseph Severn, who accompanied
Keats in Rome, makes no mention of Belli whatsoever). Similarly, the poetic and nationallinguistic encounter between Belli and Burgess has proved extremely fruitful:
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The Last Judgment (Anthony Burgess)
At the round earth’s imagined corners let
Angels regale us with a brass quartet,
Capping that concord with a fourfold shout:
“Out, everybody, everybody out!”
Then skeletons will rattle all about
Forming in file, on all fours, tail to snout,
Putting on flesh and face until they get,
Upright, to where the Judgment seat is set.
There the All High, maternal, systematic
Will separate the black souls from the white:
That lot there for the cellar, this the attic.
The wing’d musicians now will chime or blare a
Brief final tune, then they’ll put out the light:
And so to bed.
Bona Sera.
Michael Lister considered this version to be “most clever”, but at the same time “in no
way faithful to the original.” I would counter by suggesting that Burgess may be too faithful
in this instance, concluding the poem somewhat confusingly with Belli’s Romanesco.
However, this sonnet also concluded the novella ABBA ABBA, and in that context it
is entirely legitimate. Though Burgess’s original intent was to translate Belli’s sonnets
into his native Mancunian dialect, generally they are more idiolectal than dialectal. The
effervescent and muscular language packed tightly into a rigid rhyme scheme is typical
of much of Burgess’s poetry, which is generally unfairly overshadowed by his fiction. By
contrast, Robert Garioch did seek to evoke the same sense of a local depiction of the
Judgement Day (Robert Garioch)
Fowre muckle angels wi their trumpets, stalkin
til the fowre airts, sall aipen the inspection;
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they’ll gie a blaw, and bawl, ilk to his section,
in their huge voices: ‘Come, aa yese, be wauken.’
Syne sall crawl furth a ragment, a haill cleckin
of skeletons yerkt out fir resurrection
to tak again their ain human complexion,
like choukies gaitheran roun a hen that’s clockan.
An thon hen sall be Gode the blissit Faither;
he’ll pairt the indwellars of mirk and licht,
tane doun the cellar, to the ruiff the tither.
Last sall come angels, swarms of them, in flicht,
and, like us gaen to bed without a swither,
they will blaw out the caunnles, and guid-nicht.
Garioch’s version is notably more apocalyptic than Burgess’s, and manages to retain
Belli’s marvellous image of skeletons gathering like chicks around a mother hen, though
Burgess does evoke something of the farmyard tone. The Scots farewell also seems
somehow more definitively final than Burgess’s slightly whimsical nod to Belli. Yet even
that is surely preferable to Mike Stocks’s standard English version, which closes with a
mild “nighty-night.” To replicate that kind of finality, I was forced to draw upon the fondness
for casual profanity found in Belfast speech:
On Judgemint Day
Four angels with their trumpets to their bakes
at all four corners of the universe
give out a little sumthin o’ their spake:
“Git yersels up for better or worse.”
So skeletons will get intill a line,
throwing flesh an skin on like a coat,
down on their hunkers, then stood nice an fine,
but heart-ascared of judgemint, poor wee dotes.
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Then Holy God will split them inty two
an send one lot till heaven, one till hell,
dependin’ on who was decent or shite.
Angels sing their final hymns unto
the Good Lord, an they kill the lights as well.
That’s all there is, mucker. Good fuckin night.
In this final sonnet, both of these Belli traditions come together, the Biblical content and
the demotic Roman setting. His depiction of Christ’s encounter with Martha of Bethany
derives from the Gospels of John (11:17-29) and Luke (10:38-42). What Belli adds to the
Biblical accounts goes far beyond a mere transposition of location. He adds a wonderful
sense of humour to the scene, rendering Martha’s encounter with Christ akin to that of a
nagging wife pestering her husband:
Marta e Madalena
“Ma Gesucristo mio”, diceva Marta
“Chi ce pò arrege ppiù co Madalena?
Lei rosario, lei messa, lei novena,
Lei viacrùce ... Eppoi dice una ce scarta!
Io nott’e giorno sto qui a la catena
A ffà la serva e annàmmece a ffà squarta,
E sta santa dipinta su la carta
Nun z’aritrova mai c’a ppranzo e a cena.”
“Senti, Marta”, arispose er Zarvatore,
“Tu nun zei deggna de capì, nun zei
Che Maria tiè la strada ppiù mijore.”
E Marta: “Io nun ne resto perzuasa;
E ssi ffacess’io puro com’e lei
Vorìa vedé come finissi casa.”
Articles & Essays
Burgess’s translation of this sonnet is a truly magnificent evocation of his native
Mancunian dialect. He manages to retain perfectly Belli’s balance of tone and sense
of humour, while relocating the entire encounter to the North-West of England. As with
Howard’s Yorkshire translations of Belli, there is a wonderful sense of place about this
Martha & Mary (Anthony Burgess)
Martha said: “Christ, I’m full up reet to’ t’ scupper
Wi’ Mary there.” She belted out her stricture:
“Rosaries, masses – it fair makes you sick t’your
Stomach. Stations o’ t’ Cross. I’m real fed up. A
Carthorse I am, harnessed neck and crupper
While she does nowt. About time this horse kicked you
Right in the middle of your holy picture,
Mary. Go on, now. Say it: What’s for supper?”
“Martha, O Martha,” sighed the blessed Saviour,
“You’ve no call to get mad at her behaviour.
She’s on the right road, and you’re out of luck.”
“The right road, aye,” said Martha. “Why, if I
Went on like her, this house would be a sty,
And she’d not see the right road for the muck.”
This poem was surprisingly not one of those translated by Robert Garioch, though
an excellent rendering into Scots was written by the poet and teacher William Neill in his
Twa Score Romanesco Sonnets. Neill dedicated his selection to “Rab Garie”, or Robert
Garioch, “whase skeilie owersettin o Belli’s sonnetti first gied me a lift ti ettil a hantle mair.”
In Neill’s version, Martha complains of “daein the scodgies” and “sairvin up denners”,
which like Burgess evokes an exquisite sense of localisation. Where it jars somewhat,
and this perhaps cannot be helped, is in the depiction of Mary “tellin her beads” in a
Calvinistic-sounding “kirk”. My own version was perhaps overly influenced by that of
Burgess, even to the point of stealing his rhyme of “Saviour” and “behaviour”. But I tried
to depict a more robust, bellicose Christ than Burgess’s reasonable and sighing messiah:
Trinity Journal of Literary Translation
Martha an Mary
“Here, Jesus,” Martha said, “see our Mary
has my heart scalded with her mass an prayer.
She does nathin but count her beads at church
and doesn’t lift a finger here or there.
What’d her last slave die of? I’m in chains
liftin an layin, cleanin up her mess,
makin dinner. She’s no holy picture.
Guess who’s cookin’ nigh? Gwon nigh, guess.”
“Houl on there, Martha,” said the Lord our Saviour,
“you don’t understaun the sityeeashun.
She does better than you. Her prayers are great.”
“But if I tried to copy her behaviour,”
said Martha, “we’d both be above our station
an you’d soon find this house was in some state.”
It would be unfair to suggest that translation from or into dialect is any more difficult
than any other form of translation. The same problems of transposition of tone and
imagery remain. Yet in seeking to evoke a localised sense of place through the medium
of dialect, there is an additional transposition required, where the translator is driven to
find the points of universally shared experience between discrete cultures. It may be that
Giuseppe Belli’s sonnets are particularly amenable to such translation because of his
ability to render the universal local, and indeed the versions written by poets like Anthony
Burgess and Robert Garioch among others suggest this may be the case. In such a
context, the universality of content and theme assists translators who seek to relocate the
work in a different culture and locale.
Articles & Essays
Sonetti, Giuseppe Gioachino Belli, Rizzoli, Milano, 1997.
ABBA ABBA, Anthony Burgess, Faber and Faber, London, 1976.
“G.G. Belli: Roman Poet”, Eleanor Clark, The Kenyon Review, Vol. 14, No. 1, Winter,
Roman Sonnets frae Giuseppe Belli, included in Complete Poetical Works, Robert
Garioch, ed. Robin Fulton, Macdonald, Loanhead, 1983, pp. 215-280.
Twa Score Romanesco Sonnets bi Giuseppe Gioachino Belli, William Neill, Burnside
Press, Castle Douglas, 1996.
Seventeen Sonnets by G.G. Belli, William Neill, Akros, Kircaldy, 1998.
The Roman Sonnets of Giuseppe Gioachino Belli, Harold Norse, Jargon Books,
Highlands NC, 1960.
Sonnets – Giuseppe Gioacchino Belli, Mike Stocks, Oneworld Classics, London, 2007.
Sonnets of Giuseppe Belli, Miller Williams, Louisiana State University Press, Baton
Rouge, 1981.
Readers may also wish to consult this webpage, which contains a Belli sonnet and five
different translations, including versions by Robert Garioch into Scots, Paul Howard into
Yorkshire and Peter Nicholas Dale into ‘Strine’, the dialect of Australia:
Copyright for the sonnets by Anthony Burgess is held by the Estate of Anthony Burgess/
International Anthony Burgess Foundation.
Copyright for the sonnets by Robert Garioch is held by the Estate of Robert Garioch.

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